PROPOSALS by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) that would see a motorway service area located on the M18 will suck local business out of Ennis, if given the go-ahead.
That’s according to the new president of Ennis Chamber, Will Cahir, who has criticised the selection by TII of the site 1.5km north-west of Newmarket-on-Fergus as the preferred location for a motorway service area.
The president and local solicitor has said it is an effort to persuade local people who travel on the commuter belt to shop, buy fuel and eat at the new facilities, rather than use existing outlets in Ennis, Clarecastle, Newmarket-on-Fergus and Quin.
“10,000 vehicles per day travel on the Ennis to Shannon commuter belt. If a motorway service station captures this trade, this is business lost to Ennis and surrounding villages. Motorway service stations should be designed to serve people using the motorways and not positioned for the purpose of hoovering business from local communities,” he said. The TII proposal is to go before An Bord Pleanála later this year for decision.
Mr Cahir said the completion of the new motorway to Galway in 18 months’ time will bring opportunities and pose challenges. He said the motorway can facilitate traffic and business into Ennis but it can also work in the opposite direction.
“In Ennis, we need to prepare for the new reality and it is my role and that of the chamber to galvanise our business community to take advantage of the positives and to minimise the negatives. For example, Ennis is a great place to live. Galway has serious traffic problems which we don’t experience here. Can we attract more people from surrounding counties to live here? We don’t always have to look internationally for solutions,” he said.
The new chamber president argues that Ennis has excellent retail and professional services and, in many respects, can match and be better than Galway and Limerick. Ennis coffee shops, restaurants, pubs and hotels are to the forefront in good food and hospitality, he said.
“We may not always appreciate the quality businesses on our doorstep. I suppose my message is to banish negativity. Let’s get out there and promote Ennis as a town in which it is good to do business, a town which is attractive, with good retail and hospitality facilities, offering a warm welcome and good customer service. We are bigger than we think. Ennis has a population of 26,000 and is expected to grow to 50,000 by 2040. People will need places to live and work,” he added.
Mr Cahir says that Ennis has its own housing crises and a proper and sustainable programme of house building is urgently needed. Private and social houses are required to suit the various demographics in the market. Executive-style houses are required to allow families to trade up; starter homes are needed to allow people to return to Ennis; social housing is required to reduce housing lists; private rented accommodation is needed to support that sector.
“Government costs associated with house building are penal. I accept that VAT and other issues cannot be decided in Ennis but the local authority levies are decided locally and need to be examined urgently. I would like to see an incentive system put in place, in the short term at least, to kickstart the supply of housing which is so badly needed,” he said.
The loss of Roche is a serious blow and the full impact of that loss has not fully percolated through the local economy just yet. However, Ennis has many good industries located on the Gort Road and in the Information Age Park, he pointed out.
“Look at Cup Print, Tyre Check and TTM recruitment, to name a few, all indigenous companies at the forefront of their industries. Many people have been critical of the Government and the IDA for lack of action in finding a replacement for Roche. I share their impatience but I also recognise that industry cannot be produced by magic and we cannot force companies to locate in particular areas. Can we provide assistance and support to enable local business to grow?”
“I am sure that Minister of State, Pat Breen, who has responsibility for employment and small business, is working hard to ensure that Clare gets its fair share of new industry. As president of the chamber, I look forward to working with him, his officials and the State agencies to promote Ennis as a fine location for new enterprises,” according to Mr Cahir.
Mr Cahir is a solicitor working in Cahir and Co Solicitors, Abbey Street, Ennis. The firm was founded in 1976 by his father, Liam, who was also president of Ennis Chamber in 1985. His sister, Sharon, also a solicitor in the family firm, was chamber president in 2004. William trained and qualified in Dublin and returned to practice in Ennis, following a stint in Sligo in 2002.
He lives in Ennis and is married to June, who owns a boutique on Abbey Street. He is a former president of Clare Law Association. He has been involved with the chamber and contributed to its activities over many years.