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Irish Water ‘slams the door’ on rural West Clare

ANGER and frustration have been expressed by West Clare councillors after Irish Water told them it has no plans to develop sewerage schemes for the villages of Cooraclare or Carrigaholt.

At most recent district committee meeting, several members described the negative response from the water utility as “nonsense,” while another said it had left him speechless.

Both Councillor Bill Chambers and Councillor Gabriel Keating had made requests for pilot schemes to provide waste water treatment works in their respective areas, noting that such initiatives had been outlined in the Programme for Government.

In two identical responses Irish Water said it “has no statutory role where there is currently no infrastructure”. It advised councillors to direct the queries to the local authority or the government. Irate councillors then agreed to request a remote deputation to the relevant minister.

“In Cooraclare, we’re waiting for the last 40 years,” said Councillor Chambers. “There’s nearly half a million spent on it already and next thing it was axed. I propose we go to the Oireachtas members and ask to get a meeting with the minister and if there is agreement to include discussion about the situation in Carrigaholt with that, I have no problem.”

Councillor Shane Talty seconded the motion agreeing that it should be progressed by Clare’s Oireachtas members through the relevant minister.

Declaring himself “speechless” at the response, Councillor Cillian Murphy said he had never seen “such a clearly elucidated lack of ambition to deliver works that are under the remit of the body who have to do this”. “Maybe now we know where we actually stand,” he said. “There is no hope in it and we have to do something completely different.”

The Fianna Fáil member also noted that under the terms of the National Planning Framework, as it applies to the forthcoming County Development Plan, lands that are not due to be serviced within the lifetime of the plan will be de-zoned. “So, basically, we’re looking here at two communities who have just been told that any land that is zoned currently within them will be removed from zoning and they’re not going to have any development, whether it’s housing, commercial or industrial,” he said. “Personally, I don’t think that’s a good enough response from the State. There has to be an alternative system put in place for local authorities to provide basic infrastructure for our communities in order for them to survive.”

Councillor Ian Lynch described the reply as “a load of nonsense”. “I’m very frustrated and annoyed to see the reply from Irish Water,” he said, “but at least we know now where we stand. What the strategy to move forward it, it’s impossible to tell.”

Councillor Keating said the issue in Carrigaholt dated back to the 1950s. “Imagine to come along and say that they have no funding for sewerage schemes,” he said. “There are 51 Clare villages without a sewerage scheme. I wonder if those 51 villages were to assemble in Ennis, what would happen. The council need to take action strongly here. I think we need to consider our service agreement with Irish Water. It’s ok to give money to us to fix leaks, but not to develop services.”

Cathaoirleach of the West Clare Municipal District, Councillor Joe Garrihy said he had been working hard to get something done for Doolin. “These replies are completely nonsense,” he said. “We’ve gotten the door slammed in our face by Irish Water, formally in writing. We have to come up with another strategy because this hits at the heart of what we’re about as a municipal district and I support the call to make a formal submission to the minister. This is fundamental to our survival. If you think about our country using the likes of Doolin and Loop Head on postcards to the world. It’s just nonsense that we’re getting the door slammed in our faces for basic infrastructure to allow these places, the Cooraclares, the Carrigaholts and Doolins, to survive.

Members agreed to make a request for a remote deputation to the minister’s office and a formal proposal that pilot project might be set up in West Clare.

In identical responses to the motions from Councillors Chambers and Keating, the water utility stated that: “Irish Water is committed to providing a safe and reliable water supply, protecting the environment and supporting the growth of homes and businesses. The building, repair and upgrading of Irish Water’s water treatment plants, wastewater treatment plants, water and sewer network will require a multi-billion euro investment programme over many years. Investment in water services infrastructure is ongoing in Clare with numerous water and wastewater projects in varying stages of development.

Irish Water is responsible for the public water and wastewater infrastructure. Funding to develop and maintain these systems is allocated with the approval of Commission for Regulation of Utilities. It is important to note that Irish Water has no statutory role where there is currently no infrastructure.”

The utility company said it had no plans to develop sewerage schemes in either Cooraclare or Carrigaholt.

“It may be more appropriate to direct this query to Clare County Council or the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage,” the responses concluded.

About Fiona McGarry

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Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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