*Photograph: John Mangan

OVER 100 people marched to the offices of Clare County Council as the Save Francis Street Alliance took their first steps in protesting against the planned demolition of six properties in the county town in order to build a temporary car park at a fee planned to exceed €1m.

Protestors gathered from 12:30pm outside glór and began moving shortly after 1:15pm, leaving the cultural centre, passing the site earmarked for the temporary car park and the Francis St cottages, heading towards the Friary and onto Abbey Street where another €25m development is planned as part of the Ennis 2040 Strategy.

It was a peaceful protest as they moved to Harmony Row, through Lifford and onto the New Road where they convened at the headquarters of Clare County Council where they were joined by members of the Clare Leader Forum.

When they began, an approximate 91 people left glór but the influx of members from the Leader Forum brought their numbers to over 100.

Elected representatives including Clare TD, Michael McNamara (IND), Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF), Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND), Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) and Cllr Pat Daly (FF) were present as were local traders John O’Connor, Noel Tierney, Gerry Connellan and Patrick Moylan.

“I see us as the risen people of Co Clare,” remarked Thomas Guilfoyle, Chair of the Ennis Sinn Féin Cumann and spokesperson for the Save Francis Street Alliance. “Everyone here today sees that a house is worth a million more than a car park”.

Guilfoyle noted that the Francis St properties were “in the heart of our county town, everything is a stone’s throw away from them”. He believed the four Ennis MD councillors that backed the plans for the €1.1m temporary car park and €25m Abbey St development were driven by neo-liberalism. He voiced criticism over the plans and strategy of the Ennis 2040 DAC.

Dermot Hayes of the Clare Leader Forum who has joined the Alliance said funding has been promised by Junior Minister, Anne Rabbitte (FF) since 2019 to get people with disabilities under the age of sixty five that are living in nursing homes to be living in the community. He said the Francis St cottages were ideal for this purpose. “Please don’t build a car park,” the Corofin native pleaded. He said rental prices of up to €1700 per month were “shocking” and “squeezing people”. Hayes added, “I am asking councillors to go back to the drawing board, we need to save the houses, stop the rot”.

“We’ve been down this road in the past with car parks in this county,” said Tim Hannon, Chair of Clare Community Action Tenants Union (CATU). He referenced the Market Building and said drivers are left with scraped cars when they try to park there, “some of people who voted in favour of the Market Building also voted for this”. He said it was “disgraceful” and “scandalous” that Ennis MD councillors see the building of a temporary car park as “the best use for this public site”. Hannon outlined, “We’ll keep pushing and fighting until they change the decision”.

Shannon based, Cllr McGettigan who ran in the Ennis MD for the 2019 local election said she was “angered and saddened” that “in the middle of the housing crisis” the demolition of “much needed homes” could occur. “I am appalled that a €1m car park will be built instead,” she said. Arguments that asbestos is in the cottages was acknowledged by Cllr McGettigan,
“It is said that asbestos is in these houses, asbestos has to be removed anyway regardless of demolition. Why not use some of €1.22bn Dept of Housing underspend on housing for the asbestos removal”.

Cllr McGettigan admitted she would be failing in her duty as a councillor if she let the demolition of houses proceed in the middle of the housing crisis.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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