AN extra €1 million will be needed to improve roads around Ennis to ensure the county town can properly showcase what it can offer tourists during the 2016 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.
That’s according to Ennis Mayor Johnny Flynn, who made the plea for additional funding at a recent special meeting of the Ennis Municipal District.
Councillors emphasised the urgent need to resurface sections of footpaths and some of the main streets in the county town before it hosts the biggest Irish traditional music festival in the world in August 2016.
Councillor Flynn requested Clare County Council to make an official written request to Environment Minister Alan Kelly for an extra €1m under the specific improvement scheme.
This would help provide funding to complete the long-awaited roundabouts at Oakleigh Wood on the Tulla Road and the Gort Road, as well as improving sections of the Ballybeg Road that have fallen into serious disrepair.
Councillor Flynn said the Government should also borrow an extra €10m to €15m to improve infrastructure throughout the county. He proposed that the council should object to the minister over the delay in the roads’ allocation and seek an earlier decision on funding for next year.
Councillor Pat Daly proposed that councillors should contact the six Clare Oireachtas members to ensure adequate pressure is applied on the Government to secure this funding ahead of the Fleadh. Councillor Daly complained that some of the streets and footpaths in Ennis are in a deplorable state, which has to be rectified as quickly as possible before the staging of the Fleadh.
Acknowledging it was a great “privilege” for Ennis to secure the 2016 Fleadh, Councillor Ann Norton said councillors, the council and all other interested parties need to work together over the next year to showcase the town in the best possible light. Councillor Norton stressed the town centre should be prioritised during any improvement works and expressed concern that the council seems to be coming up “against a brick wall” when it comes to securing additional money.
Councillor Tom McNamara accused the Government of playing a “three-card trick” in relation to the allocation of funding from the Local Property Tax.
Before the LPT was introduced, he recalled Government representatives promised receipts from the new tax would help provide extra local authority services. However, Councillor McNamara claimed the exact opposite is the case, as Clare is getting less money from the LPT compared to some counties.
The Fianna Fáil councillor said it is very hard to expect councillors to go back to Clare people and request them to pay the LPT when they didn’t see any evidence of additional funding being allocated to their local authority. He said the overall municipal allocation should be made in September for the following year to help councillors have all the relevant information about funding before they prepare the annual Budget Estimates.
Councillor James Breen proposed that the council should apply for additional funding ahead of the Fleadh to the Minister for Arts, Tourism and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys.
Senior council engineer, Tom Tiernan stressed it is very difficult to allocate funding from the overall Ennis Municipal District programme of works when the overall allocation for roads was 42% less compared to 2008.
Mr Tiernan said the main focus of the council is to maintain its existing infrastructure, rather than focusing on upgrading roundabouts because it doesn’t have the capital resources to do this and these works are a relatively expensive way of regulating traffic compared to other traffic-calming measures.
Director of service, Ger Dollard told councillors that one of the Government tourism agencies usually makes an allocation to the host town and he expects Ennis would also benefit from this funding next year.
Mr Dollard acknowledged that the council’s allocation is not multi-annual and the present timing when the precise allocation for roads and other public infrastructure becomes known doesn’t suit the executive or councillors.
He accepted that Clare County Council didn’t gain excessively from the LPT and supported any political representations made at national level to secure additional funding for town improvement works.
Mr Tiernan said he would support any calls for additional funding for local infrastructure ahead of the Fleadh.