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‘A lot of people have left Kilkee and they don’t come back’

SHORT term rentals has been a major factor in making housing unaffordable, not just in cities, but in places like Kilkee as well.

Eddie Lenihan now lives in Adare, having had to leave Kilkee due to the near impossibility of finding a place to rent there year-round.

Although a native of Limerick, he was spending much of his time in Kilkee from his earliest days.

“My parents had a house down there from when I was born and I’m 42 now. I used go every Easter, Christmas, all summer. I played football there from under 14, we won a few underage titles, Kilkee is my community, it’s where I grew up, where my best friends are from. I’ve a deep connection with it.”

A civil engineer, he left Ireland during the recession, but just after Eddie and his wife became parents, they moved back to West Clare, with plans to settle there that ultimately did not work out.

“We were in Kilkee for three years, we were squeezed out of the town. We have three very young children and the way it is in Kilkee you can rent a house for the winter no problem, but you have to be out come May or June and you can get access again in September. That’s not ideal with a young family.

“We came back from the UK with the intention of going to Kilkee, figuring out the lie of the land and hopefully purchasing a place.

“We said we’d rent first, I had changed career in the UK and was self-employed as a marketing and business consultant and the bank wouldn’t give me money until I was set up in Ireland.”

After arriving in Kilkee they were able to stay in one house for around a year and a half. While they then managed to get another place locally, as one of the Covid summers approached they had to move once again, and there was nothing in Kilkee for them.

“It was causing a lot of stress and trying to find a place was a nightmare. People couldn’t go on holidays so they were using their holiday homes.

“Any available property, people were either occupying or renting out as there was ample demand for it. There was probably €1,000 a week that people could make, so you were competing against that.

“People came to us and said we can give you a place for maybe a month, but you’ll have to move on again. Or if you can hang on until September we’ll give you a property until next May, but you’ll have to move out then again. It wasn’t viable with a young family.”

They went to Kilrush initially, but Kilkee had always been the plan, and ultimately they moved back to Adare, where Eddie’s wife has family.

“We were fed up with the moving, it wasn’t healthy for the kids. They’re going to be starting school next year. I’m not in a position to get a mortgage, I’m self employed. It was unstable and we made the move, more for stability than anything.”

Eddie’s family had been very sure that they wanted to be in Kilkee, but it just couldn’t be made to work.

“Absolutely, it was our intention. We moved from London to west Clare and that’s a drastic move. We wanted to be in the community, my wife had lots of friends there and so did I. It was at the forefront of our minds to settle there.”

He had been PRO of St Senan’s GAA club, while he was also very involved in Foróige Youth Club.

At many stages the lack of employment has forced people away from the area, but now its housing, and Eddie feels Kilkee is being damaged.

“A lot of people have left Kilkee and they don’t come back. The community is broken a bit. When I look back on when I was growing up there was vibrancy in the community.”

“There are a lot of factors at play, don’t get me wrong, but housing is a major issue. People from Kilkee can’t live there, they have to move to small towns outside their community.

“The likes of Kilrush, Kilmihil or Doonbeg for example, which leaves a vacuum in a small community that really does affect community spirit.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.