WILLIE MCGRATH, one of the three primary organisers of the 2012 Kilkee Strand Races held in September, has hit back at suggestions that outside traders’ presence at this year’s event in the seaside resort had anything to do with the organisers.
“The Strand Races are a great thing for the town but as far as the Chamber of Commerce is concerned, there was a problem in that there was a chip van and an ice cream van on the promenade on the day of the races,” Councillor Haugh Hayes said at this month’s Kilkee Town Council meeting.
“It’s very difficult when people are being asked to support something and then there’s somebody from the outside coming in taking some of their business,” she added.
However, Willie McGrath has strongly denied that he or anybody on the organising committee could do anything about the presence of traders.
“I don’t want anybody to be of the opinion that an invitation was extended to traders to come to Kilkee. As one of the organisers, it’s important for me to state this. I was in control of what was happening around the park, where the boxes are parked up,” he explained.
“That particular morning, when we arrived at 9am, there was a chip van parked up there. Whoever owned it was gone. We were not an authority to stop anyone from coming on to the park. Having said that, we were later told that the traffic warden was appointed that particular day to keep control of things like that. On the morning of the Strand Races, I was approached by a member of Kilkee Chamber of Commerce, who was quite angry and was asking who allowed the traders in. I explained to him that one of the traders was already there,” Mr McGrath added.
“He said to me that the Chamber of Commerce wouldn’t be happy about it. I said to him ‘why don’t you approach these people and you tell them they can’t trade?’ I just said ‘if you’re in authority to stop these people, that’s fine with us,” the Kilkee man stated.
Revealing that time pressure means he won’t be involved in organising the 2013 races, Mr McGrath suggested Councillor Haugh Hayes should help out.
“Councillor Elaine Haugh Hayes might be far better off if s he were to work with the organising committee rather than trying to criticise what they do. The Chamber had plenty of notice in relation to when these races were going on and if they had any fear in relation to outside traders, they could have taken it up with us. I’m very grateful to some, not all, of the Kilkee business people who gave us great sponsorship down through the years,” he said, before noting that the overall cost of staging the event was €8,000, of which €5,000 was for prize money.
“It’s a difficult situation. I’m sure the organisers definitely did not invite them in for the day. But how do you stop those people if they come? It could be a job next year for the Community Warden, if people arrive without their proper permit, to send them on their way,” Mayor of Kilkee, Claire Haugh, said at the town council meeting earlier this month.