‘Men need to share troubles’

THE head of the Samaritans in Clare has warned that there are “darker times” ahead for the people of Clare but stressed that organisations like the Samaritans will always be there to help.

Gerry Dobbin, head of the Samaritans in Clare, has warned that he cannot foresee any improvement for many people in Clare in the short term but that people, especially men, need to be prepared to share their troubles.

“I think we are headed for darker times,” Mr Dobbin told The Clare People this week.

“I don’t see how we are going to see much of an improvement. I honestly believe that from talking to people and from looking at the overall picture,” Mr Dobbin added.


Anxious wait for expats in Korea

THE growing Clare expat population in South Korea is waiting with baited breath to see will any military action take place as a result of the death of North Korea dictator Kim Jong-il. Corofin man Maccon-Fionn McNamara is one of more than a dozen Clare people who are currently living in the South Korean city of Daegu.

As South Korea’s third largest city and the site of both a South Korean and American military base, Daegu would be a centre of activity if any live conflict emerges as a result of the transfer of power in North Korea. Maccon-Fionn works as an English teacher in Daegu, alongside fellow Clare natives Aidan O’Donoghue from Ennis, Alex Whyatt from Ennis, Maura Crawford from Inagh and Stephen and Mark Milliken.

“The main fear here at the moment is the possible consequences of a power vacuum. It is a domestic thing with different sanctions who will be vying for the power in the coming weeks. The worst thing that could happen is that, in an effort to show some sort of unity behind Kim Jongun, they could make some threatening actions toward South Korea. It has happened before. They find a way to blame the South and in that way to unify the country,” he said.

“The military here has been put on full alert and the war council was convened and they are also monitoring against cyber attacks coming over from the North. A missile was test fired on the day that Kim Jong-il died but they are saying that that is unrelated.

“At this stage, it is really a case of wait and see. They have lived with the threat over here for 60 years and now it is almost like a fact of life. I think maybe the older people are more concerned. They have experienced open war before and they know what it is like to have their lives and their families torn apart – it is not the same for the younger people.”

As it happens, Maccon-Fionn was on a trip to the DMZ, the demilitarized zone which borders North and South Korea, when Kim Jong-il died.

“There is an airbase in Daegu and I have heard a lot more activity coming from that, whether it be training exercises or something else. There is a lot more military traffic in the air.

“There is also a US military base here called Camp Walker where a lot of US soldiers are based, but it seems like that is mostly as-youwere, with a lot of training exercises going on.

“I was actually in the DMZ last week around the time that he died, but that is a total coincidence, I swear,” he said.


Landlord given three months to comply

CLARE County Council has brought legal proceedings against a 72-yearold woman arising out of “serious deficiencies” in relation to fire safety at a flats complex in Shannon.

The case was taken by Clare County Council against Maeve Lynch, of Drumgeely Hill, Shannon for failing to comply with a fire safety notice.

Defending solicitor Jenny Fitzgibbon told Ennis District Court on Thursday that her client was pleading guilty.

Assistant fire officer Ger Fallon told the court that he carried out an inspection at Elm House, Drumgeely, Shannon, on January 18 last. He said that there are 21 flats; 20 of which are owned by the defendant. The building is 40 years old, he said.

He said there were “serious deficiencies” in relation to fire safety to exits on the premises namely inadequate means of escape, no working fire alarm and inadequate escape lighting.

Mr Fallon said he served a fire safety notice on February 14 last, which indicated a three-month time frame to carry out works.

He said that another inspection took place on September 28. On that date, some of the works had been completed, but other works were not.

He said that three of the apartments were occupied at the time.

Mr Fallon said that all of the works have now been completed as an inspection was carried out last week. He said that the three main tenants have been moved to ground floor flats.

“I am seeking an undertaking that no other flat will be leased without my approval,” he said.

Ms Fitzgibbon said that this undertaking was given by her client to the assistant fire officer the previous day and he accepted this.

The woman gave this undertaking in court, at the request of the judge.

Mr Fallon told Judge Aeneas McCarthy that he was satisfied for the safety of the current tenants.

Ms Fitzgibbon explained that her client, aged 72, operated a “family orientated business” and that tenants have resided there for more than 15 years.

“They are long standing tenants and regard this as their home,” she said.

“She (Ms Lynch) lives across from Elm House,” said the solicitor.

She said that damage had been caused last year by frozen pipes. “There is extensive water damage in the flats. Electrical works couldn’t be done until the flats were dried out,” she said.

She said this work has now been completed and is fully compliant.

“This has been done at great personal expense. They are up to their neck in debt arising from getting the apartment block compliant,” she said.

“It won’t be finalised by the insurance company for some time,” she added.

“The apartment block would have thrived as a place for people to live over the years,” she said.

Solicitor for Clare County Council Rachael Leahy said the maximum fine is € 3,000, while the council’s costs were € 1,638.

Judge McCarthy said he was satisfied with the undertaking given in court by the defendant and that tenants were not in danger.

He imposed a fine of € 500 and ordered that costs be paid. He gave the defendant three months to pay.


Campaign for Clare Gaeltacht status launched

A NEWcampaign to secure Gaeltacht status for Clare has been launched ten years after breac-Gaeltacht designation was taken away from many parts of the western seaboard.\.

The newly formed Clare Gaeltacht Committee is spearheading this drive as part of what it has called a campaign “to revitalize and strengthen further Irish in county Clare”.

Kilmihil-based Seosamh Mac Ionnrachtaigh is one of the main drivers of the initiative, which earlier this year saw him make a submission to the Draft County Development Plan 2011-2017, which called on Clare County Council to play its part in promoting the language.

Now, the new language revival campaign has bee cranked up with the announcement of a four-month consultation process between now and the end of April has been flagged by the Clare Gaeltacht Committee.

“In the context of language planning, the people of Clare and the general public are invited to send electronic or written submissions for Plean na Gaeilge 2012-2017 in Clare that will identify what needs to be done for Irish in the county,” said Mr Mac Ionnrachtaigh.

“We intend seeking Gaeltacht sta tus for the people of County Clare in the near future. To that end a new language plan for the county is going to be formed as part of revitalizing the language in the county and getting back the Gaeltacht status that was taken away many years ago,” he added.

In his submission to the county development plan, Mr Mac Ionnrachtaigh said “the future of the Irish language in the county is important in economic, social, infrastructural, cultural and environmental terms”. He also said “the establishment of Gaeltacht status should be recognised in the Draft County Development Plan”.

“In relation to establishing a Gaeltacht in the county, this is not within the remit of the County De- velopment Plan,” responded county manager, Tom Coughlan. “The responsibility for establishing new Gaeltachtaí lies with the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and not with the local authority.”

Clare enjoyed breac-Gaeltacht status from 1929 to 2001, with the biggest Irish-speaking districts being near Ballyvaughan, Doolin, Kilkee and Carrigaholt were the Irish College operated by Macdara Tóibín is located.


Household charge a ‘burden’ on councils

THE planned introduction of the household charge has been dismissed as “just another burden” on local authorities.

The comment was made by Green Party councillor, Brian Meaney last week at Ennis Town Council’s annual budget meeting.

Details of the charge are contained in a circular issued to the council from the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

In it, Colm Lavery, Principal Officer, Local Government Finance Section states that the Government is introducing a household charge to meet the requirements of the EU/ IMF programme of financial support for Ireland.

He continued, “The household charge is an interim measure and proposals for a full property tax will be considered by the Government in due course. The Exchequer contribution to the Local Government Fund has been replaced by the income from the household charge for 2012.”

The plans were criticised by Cllr Meaney who told the meeting that the charge would have a negative effect on local authority finances.

He said there would be a net loss in central government funding to the council.

Describing it as a burden, Cllr Meaney said, “This is the last of a long list of straws placed on this camel’s back.”

He was sharply critical of a section of the circular that highlights Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan views on the need for continued reduction in commercial rates.

Mr Lavery writes, “The General Purpose Grant allocation continues to provide a very significant contribution towards the current expenditure needs of your authority for 2012. As part of a range of measures to aid economic recovery, the minister is clear on the need for continued reductions in commercial rates over the coming years and again requests that local authorities exercise restraint in setting commercial rates and local charges for 2012, in order to support competitiveness in the economy, nationally and locally, and to protect the interests of communities. Local authorities have responded positively to previous requests for restraint and, in light of the current, challenging environment for business, it is strongly urged that this restraint be continued.”

Cllr Meaney said Ennis Town Council has always exercised restraint and did not need to be told to do so by the Government.

On rates, he said the minister had used “loose language” in the circular, adding, “We’e not burdening the business community.”

He said national government had “foisted” an unfair system of funding on local authorities that left overly reliant on rates for income.

“I completely reject the language used in the circular, he added.

Cllr Tommy Brennan (Ind) said the council needs income from rates and parking charges.

He said, “Our hands have been tied and have been tied for a long number of years.”

Cllr Frankie Neylon (Ind) said he wished the council could reduce rates but in the current economic climate such thinking was “only a fools paradise”.


New walking route a boost for North Clare tourism

A MAJOR step forward in promoting North Clare as a top destination for walking tourism was made on Thursday with the announcement that a much-sought-after walking route connecting Liscannor and Doolin will go ahead.

Contract for the restoration of the walking track were signed in Doolin last week with work on the route likely to get underway early in the new year.

Walking tourism has been heralded by many as the possible saviour of the tourism industry in Clare.

In 2009, walking tourism passed out both golfing and surfing to become the activity which attract most tourists to County Clare.

Both walking and cycling have seen a renaissance for holiday-makers in recent years and it is hoped that the restoration of the 12.7 kilometres route between Doolin and Liscannor will help to put Clare on the global map for walking tourists.

The path has been earmarked for experienced walkers and will take walkers along the iconic Cliffs of Moher from Doolin to Hags Head, and then on minor roads into the village of Liscannor. The project has been made possible as a result of 39 private landowners who have pledged to support project.

“The upgrading of this coastal path will offer a unique perspective on coastal walking along an area of land that is world renowned,” said Eimer McCarthy of Clare Local Development Company (CLDC).

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the agencies involved and especially to thank the landowners for their time and support until now, and in the coming months, during the upgrading works.”

Seventy five per cent of the funding for the initiative is being provided by Fáilte Ireland under the National Development Plan 2007 to 2013 with the balance being funded by Clare County Council and Shannon Development.

Clare Local Development Company secured the involvement of local landowners in the project, which is being supported by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The successful contractor for the project is County Wexford-based Metro Building Contractors, while Burren Way Ltd will manage the walk when it is completed in April 2012.

“We have been challenged to make the Burren Way a world-class walking route and following other significant developments on the route in recent years the addition of the Clare Coastal Walk will go a long way towards achieving our goal,” said Gerard Kennedy, Chairman of Burren Way.


Town sculpture initiative to slow down for 2012

ENNIS Town Council has announced a reduction in spending on the town’s sculpture initiative saying it is not possible to fund new pieces next year.

The measure was announced as part of Ennis Town Council’s budget for 2012, which was adopted last week.

In his annual report, town manager Ger Dollard stated that three major sculpture initiatives were progressed during 2011.

He explained, “The relocation of Icarus to the Rocky Road roundabout; the installation of the Information Age Town Sculpture at Clon Road Park and the commencement of preparatory work for a major piece at the market roundabout were also advanced.”

Mr Dollard continued, “The completion of these three projects is a very significant addition to the over- all Ennis Sculpture Trail. The budget provision for 2012 does not provide for any new pieces. The provision made will assist in maintaining the extensive sculpture trail that is now in place.”

Mr Dollard told the meeting that it is not possible to provide funding for new or additional pieces.

Councillor Johnny Flynn (FG) said the council had significantly invested in public art initiatives such as the Wallcandy project.

He said Ennis is one of the bestserved towns per square kilometre for sculpture in Ireland.

He said the council made a huge commitment to cultural and community-based initiatives. Mr Dollard told the meeting that the council would increase its provision for priming grants next year.

He explained, “The council reviewed its Priming Grants Scheme during 2011 and introduced funding bands for different sized estates. The council met all applications received as it is vitally important that such partnership arrangements are encouraged and maintained so that the town can be presented to the best possible standard for residents and visitors alike.”

He added, “I have increased the provision for the priming grants scheme in 2012 to € 18,000 to assist community groups undertaking valuable works in maintaining and improving their estates. Contributions are again provided in the draft budget for Ennis Brass Band, Ennis Book Club Festival, Ennis Trad Music Festival, Ennis Fashion Week and Promote Ennis.”

Cllr Mary Coote Ryan (FG) said it had been a “wonderful year” and that at a time of recession, the council had made a number of significant achievements.

“Even though things are tough, we keep motoring on for next year,” she added.


Networking the key to growing tourism

THE newly appointed head of the Clare Tourism Forum has singled out co-operation between the county’s tourism providers as the key to Clare unlocking its tourism potential in 2012.

Barbara Faulkner of Aillwee Cave in Ballyvaughan has been appointed the new chairperson of the Clare Tourism Forum. She replaces Joe Russell, general manager of Doon beg Golf Club, who held the position throughout 2011.

“What I would like to see for the coming year and for the future is more networking and coming together of all of the tourism providers within the county. Collaboration is key to moving forward,” she said.

“Tourism is very important to County Clare with huge potential for growth, but we all need to take responsibility for it and to ensure that everyone visiting the county has a memorable experience.

“What I would like to see for the coming year and for the future is more networking and coming together of all of the tourism providers within the county. Collaboration is key to moving forward. Tourism is very important to County Clare with huge potential for growth, but we all need to take responsibility for it and to ensure that everyone visiting the county has a memorable experience.

“I am looking forward to the year ahead and the many challenges that it will present. Since its establishment in 2005, Clare Tourism Forum has been very active in promoting Coun- ty Clare both at home and abroad, and all that hard work and dedication is starting to show. However, we need to continue promoting the message that when it comes to choosing a destination for a holiday or short break County Clare has it all.”

The Clare Tourism Forum was established in 2005 to provide a collaborative approach to tourism pro- motion in County Clare. The forum’s members developed and hosted a number of initiatives aimed at promoting the local tourism sector during 2011.

One of the highlights of the year was the Gala Clare Tourism Networking event which attracted more than 200 Clare tourism providers in May, while more than 400 golfers from around Ireland participated in the second annual Clare Ultimate Golf Challenge.

Tourism operators throughout Clare also took park in educational tours of Clare during March and April. The event was designed to encourage cross promotion and networking among Forum members and the wider business community.


2020 project questioned

QUESTIONS have been raised over the influence a community research project might have on the future development of Ennis. The first phase of ‘Ennis 2020 – People, Place, Potential’ was launched in Ennis in November. The community visioning exercise is the product of a joint initiative between Ennis Town Council and University of Limerick. The main objective of the project is to support the development of a participatory plan for Ennis as a hub town in line with the National Spatial Strategy. The opinions of over 300 people were canvassed including those of 30 young people.

The project’s report presents perspectives on what local people think Ennis will look and feel like in 2020; the strengths and assets on which it can build; how the image of Ennis might be improved and how Ennis might be developed further as an inclusive town.

In a report presented at the council’s annual budget meeting, town manager Ger Dollard states, “Further work has been done on this project and three working groups have been established to assess the outcome of the consultation process and distill information and ideas generated down to an overall strategy for Ennis as a hub town.”

Speaking at last week’s meeting, councillor Peter Considine (FF) asked how the project was being funded. He said the project’s approach appeared to be a “very broad brush” for the future planning of Ennis. He said he would not like to see an advisory group determining Council policy.

Town clerk Leonard Cleary said three working groups had been established through the Ennis Municipal Policy Committee. The meeting heard that the groups do not have a budget.

Mayor of Ennis, Cllr Michael Guilfoyle (Ind) said the group operated on an advisory basis and potential decisions would have to be “rubber stamped” by the council. Mr Dollard also announced a reduction in the council’s budget for twinning initiatives from € 9,000 in 2011 to € 5,000 in 2012.

He added, “Invitations have been ex tended to Ennis’ sister town in Phoenix, Arizona, through Ennis Phoenix Twinning Board for a formal visit to Ennis in 2013. Arrangements are also being made through the Twinning Board to have participation of a band from Phoenix in the Ennis St Patrick’s Day Parade 2013.


Water treatment plants need more work

FURTHER upgrades are required at wastewater treatment plants in Ennis in order to ensure balanced development of the town, a meeting has heard.

Clare County Council received a grant of permission for the € 2.8 million upgrade of the Clonroadmore wastewater treatment plant from An Bord Pleanála in November.

The development will see the upgrading of the existing wastewater treatment plant from a design capacity of 17,000 population equivalent to a design capacity of 30,150 (pe). The proposed works include (a) an increased storm water storage capacity, (b) the provision of a new clari- fier, (c) the provision of a picket fence thickener (PFT) for sludge treatment and (d) the provision of a tertiary treatment system.

Speaking at Clare County Council’s annual budget meeting, former Mayor of Ennis, councillor Tommy Brennan (Ind) said the town had been waiting for an upgrade of the wastewater treatment plant at Clareabbey since 1995.

Welcoming the development at Clonroadmore, Cllr Brennan said similar progress was required at the Clareabbey facility. He said, “I’d like to see balanced development of the town so the town can develop properly”.

Senior Engineer Sean Ward said the council has prepared a preliminary report on works for Clareabbey. He explained that improvements to the Ennis wastewater network would be carried out on an incremental basis.

Mr Ward told the meeting that approval had been sought for the Clondroadmore plant because it is “overloaded” while capacity at Clareabbey is on a “knife-edge”. He said the council had secured a license from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Clonroadmore while none is yet in place for Clareabbey.

In a report, Cllr Joe Arkins (FG) stated that two projects costed at € 8.7m will proceed to construction under the council’s 2010-12 Water Services Investment Programme (WSIP). Cllr Arkins, who is Chair- man of the council’s Environmental and Water Services Strategic Policy Committee (SPC), explained that a further five projects will proceed to planning during these years.

Cllr Arkins continued, “Consultant procurement for the Ennis watermain rehabilitation project will be completed in 2011. This project is expected to commence construction in 2012. Close liaison with business and other stakeholders in the town will be required in order that any work carried out does not adversely affect daily running of business.

“The aim of the project is to replace older mains, which either are costing significant amounts to maintain or are causing hydraulic constraint and low pressure and to obtain a saving on lost water within these areas. All service connections on these mains will be replaced.”

Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) said the Council might have to consider introducing water byelaws for commercial and domestic users to prevent leakages from the network.

Cllr Gerry Flynn (Ind) called on the Council to expedite progress of the Shannon sewerage scheme otherwise the town is “going to flowed out of it in sewerage”.

He was also strongly critical of plans to impose water rates on volountary and sports groups. He described the € 450 standing charge as a “hidden stealth charge”.

“We are attacking their very existence,” he added.