AN appeal has been made for support for the East Clare business community, as Ireland moves into the second phase of the re-opening of the economy.
Addressing the May meeting of the Killaloe Municipal District, Councillor Pat Hayes asked that the local authority might look to the example set in County Cork where a plan had been devised to support 28 towns in re-opening for business. “We depend on rate payers,” the Fianna Fáil member pointed out, “and they depend on public services. Almost every business has had to close and they’re now slowly re-opening. I would ask that the council officials speak to the business community in East Clare to see what they need to get them back on track, with so many restrictions continuing around public health.”
The Caher-based councillor noted that Cork County Council had been making strong efforts in supporting its urban centres to resume economic activity after the lockdown. “When you look around the country, Cork County Council stands out as having a very proactive programme for its 28 towns. They have teams to liaise with businesses and the wider community. They’re particularly looking at things like street furniture, walkways and provision for the over-70s, which could be something we could examine in conjunction with Clare Age Friendly. There are things going on in Cork in terms of deep cleaning of streets and street furniture, and perhaps the Killaloe district would be the basis of a pilot project in this regard. We must give confidence back to our towns and villages.”
Councillor Hayes noted that Cork County Council had finalised a deal with the European Development Bank to fund its reopening plan for the local economy. “They are thinking outside the box,” he remarked. “I think we need to be far more proactive here in order to give confidence to rate payers that they are being supported. This is an opportunity to show our mettle.”
Councillor Hayes’s remarks followed a briefing from Senior Executive Officer Morgan Lahiffe who told members that the authority would be looking at ways to promote social distancing in towns and villages in the Killaloe district. “We believe social distancing will be here for a year, if not two,” he pointed out. “Our engineer will be looking, in the coming weeks, at the layout of our towns and villages. Promoting social distancing is an issue that is widespread around the country.”
Responding to the discussion, Director of Social Development Anne Haugh gave an assurance that the local authority team will be liaising with businesses owners in the area. “Consultation is very important,” she noted. “We do need to engage and we’re not going to be going in as if we know what’s best. We need to find out what businesses need in order to gradually get back to some kind of normality.”
Ms Haugh also asked that councillors would assist officials in flagging the needs of the business community, and said the authority would be looking to avail of funding support. “You are best placed, on the ground, to know what is required,” she told members. “The National Transport Authority (NTA) is making some small funds available for temporary mobility measures and we will be looking at how that will help. A lot of the measures needed in terms of facilitating socially distant queuing outside shops and traffic flows will, hopefully, be interim and temporary. The re-opening is just getting off the ground now and this is the time to engage.”