The chief executive and a director of services of Clare County Council have apologised to the three families affected by what has been described as the “fiasco” of the council’s handling of proposals on Blake’s Corner in Ennistymon.
Council CEO Tom Coughlan has privately delivered an apology to the families whose homes and businesses could face demolition if a new bridge, aimed at alleviating traffic problems at Blake’s Corner, goes ahead.
Councillor Richard Nagle raised the matter at Monday’s meeting of the council in a motion that called for a protocol to be put in place that would outline clearly how individuals and communities are to be consulted concerning any proposals that directly affect them.
“I put down this motion because I believe that it is important that we, as a council, have clear guidelines in place for projects that have a major impact on individual members and the communities in which they are to take place,” Councillor Nagle stated.
He said he was extremely disappointed with the council, which had caused stress to individuals, families and the community of Ennistymon in that his motion didn’t merit a reply from the council.
“If this is the attitude of the council there will be further mistakes and difficulties,” Councillor Nagle warned. “Is this council aware of the serious breach of trust that has occurred between this council and the community they are supposed to serve?” he asked.
“It is not acceptable that people are treated in such a callous fashion – that agents of this council visit them in their homes and threaten them with a CPO (Compulsory Purchase Order),” he continued.
Councillor Nagle said it was also unacceptable that elected members were totally unaware of the proposals and the effect they would have on the local community.
“I appreciate that the council CEO and the director have apologised to the families for the shortcomings of how the council dealt with this, but now we have to deal with what is going to happen in the future and there is an onus on everyone to ensure that this type of fiasco never happens again.”
He asked that the CEO and director of service would personally co-ordinate future infrastructural projects and particularly the Ennistymon project, which has “caused such distress to the community and reputational damage to the council”, to ensure it will never happen again.
Councillor Bill Slattery supported the motion and said he was very concerned about how the Ennistymon project has been handled, while Councillor PJ Kelly said it was undoubtedly the biggest embarrassment in his time in the council chamber.
He said he accepted the apology of the CEO and hopes that it won’t happen again, noting, “It was the best possible example of creating such a mess with so little effort”.
Councillor Pat Hayes said he would support a motion that put a protocol in place and claimed the situation had impacted on all councillors.
Mr Coughlan said while he is conscious of ongoing discussions with a group in Ennistymon, what happened should not have happened he noted.
He said there is a very clear process and protocols in place in normal circumstances for consultations and said his most important concern would be for councillors to be briefed first.
Mr Coughlan added that he totally accepted that councillors must be respected and the first to hear of such projects at all times, and will do his best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Councillor Nagle said he still wants to see a set of guidelines put in place to make sure that this would not happen again in the future, which he said would help to rebuild the fragile trust between the council and the people of Ennistymon.
“This will only be rebuilt with diplomacy, sensitivity, openness and transparency. That’s what needs to happen from now on,” he said.
By Ron Kirwan