EAST Clare councillors have sunk a proposal that could have netted an annual €5 million windfall to Clare County Council for new rural waste water treatment facilities.
Councillor Johnny Flynn withdrew a motion calling on the government to put a funding mechanism in place to place a one cent levy per 100 litres of water abstracted from Lough Derg, if this project to provide water to the Midlands and Dublin region goes ahead.
The proposal met with opposition from East Clare councillors who described it as “premature”.
With up to €10 million annually shared by Tipperary and Clare Clare County Councils, Coucillor Flynn told a recent Council meeting a new strategy could provide waste water treatment to 55 Clare unsewered towns and villages and could also support rural tourism, enterprises and housing.
He pointed out his proposal wasn’t about whether this controversial project should go ahead or not and involved a request for An Bord Pleanála to include the new levy as a planning condition.
If the project goes ahead, he said 13 counties on the East coast would benefit from a 50% increase in their water supply.
“Water is a vital service that underpins social and economic growth into the future. It is also a public health issue. Clare will not receive any benefit. Legislation has been put in place to allow this project to progress. This project is included in the National Water Services Plan.”
Councillor Gerry Flynn supported the motion if the project does get off the ground, as “their masters in Dublin” will probably ignore their concerns and press ahead with the views of their highly paid advisors.
Councillor Pat Hayes said there is no Irish Water plan to improve wastewater facilities in places like Broadford and O’Briensbridge in East Clare.
“What Councillor Johnny Flynn is saying is we will give them the asset, we might get the money back and they might put in the infrastructure. There has to be a quid pro quo here.
“If we say we will accept the project, we will take so much per litre back for our county but we have no proposal about our infrastructure or no plan in how we are going to alleviate sewerage going into Lough Derg,” he said.
“Further discussions need to be held and we need to be briefed on what Irish Water are now saying and what their proposals are for the region.”
He claimed a lot of the implications for tourism and the environment still haven’t been fully clarified for councillors, and noted supporting this motion effectively supported the water abstraction project.
Councillor Tony O’Brien said he was totally opposed to this motion, which he also felt was premature.
“Irish Water has shown scant regard for Clare in terms of investment in places like O’Briensbridge and Broadford not making any progress at all.
“It seems to be we would be selling ourselves short and we are in agreement with the abstraction project.”
He suggested this motion should be withdrawn.
While Councillor Joe Cooney acknowledged there is some merit in securing income for the county in the long term, he argued that Irish Water would have to complete significant investment in rural towns and villages in East Clare before this proposal could be supported.
Councillor Michael Begley also opposed the motion as he felt it would indicate Clare could be bought off with the promise of revenue before a proper discussion was held about the impact of this project in the county.
Vice-chairman, Pat Burke expressed concerns that in a drought situation that people in the Mid-West would suffer if the water abstraction system was in place pumping water to Dublin.
Councillor Burke said he couldn’t support this motion until councillors received a lot more information about this project.
Councillor Johnny Flynn said his proposal is not premature as Irish Water has declared its intention to proceed with a planning application for the water abstraction project since 2016.
Once the National Water Services Plan is adopted, Councillor Flynn predicted Irish Water will lodge a planning application to An Bord Pleanála and this project may end up in the European Court.
“This is a proposal that would ensure Clare County Council would receive €5 million for 100 years to invest itself, which could generate another €15 million in government funds to deal with wastewater problems.
“This motion has nothing to do with the planning application. It is about if and when this project goes ahead. Waiting for the planning application will be too late as Irish Water will have developed its financial model for this project.
“If this €5 million figure isn’t included now, it will not be included later on,” he claimed.
“This is not about taking money and selling an asset, it is about looking at what the potential could be if it goes ahead.”
Councillor Tony O’Brien acknowledged he had made a reference to taking the “Queen’s shilling” and apologised for any offence this caused to Councillor Johnny Flynn, as this wasn’t his intention to explain this motion was sending out the wrong signal to Irish Water at this time.
He said there was an onus on Clare Oireachtas members to do their utmost to protect the asset provided by the River Shannon.
Councillor Hayes asked the chief executive officer, Pat Dowling to request a briefing from Irish Water about the status of the water abstraction project for East Clare councillors.
By Dan Danaher