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Murphy calls for ‘Covid proofing’ of West Clare funding applications

A CALL has been made for future tourism projects for West Clare to be “Covid-proofed,” so that their viability doesn’t depend solely on large numbers of international visitors.
Tabling a motion at the last meeting of the West Clare Municipal District, Councillor Cillian Murphy asked that the council would undertake “a strategic review of its current Rural Regeneration Development Fund (RRDF) applications” to ensure the most appropriate ons were being pursued. The Fianna Fáil member said the move was needed “in light of the changed global circumstances, due to Covid-19, especially with regard to tourism”.
“There is a huge issue now around diversifying projects like the Loop Head Lighthouse and the Vandeleur Gardens,” he said. “Those projects were designed to capitalise on the type of tourism we don’t have at the moment. They’re locked on a path to outcomes they will now struggle to achieve and nobody could have foreseen this.’
Asking for details of projects currently being assessed, Councillor Murphy said, “Future projects that we put forward for RRDF funding must not lock us into the same path”. “We must now analyse the deliverables in the light of Covid-19 and its impact on tourism,” he said. “I would have concerns that projects in the pipeline need to be Covid-proofed.”
The motion was seconded by Councillor Ian Lynch, who noted plans to discuss the applications at a future meeting. “It would be an awful pity if projects couldn’t now deliver,” he said and asked for clarification on the role of councillors in deciding which applications were made to the Department of Rural and Community Development.
Director of Services Leonard Cleary explained that RRDF applications went info a national funding competition. “Projects must be shovel-ready and close to having planning permission,” he pointed out. “The Ennistymon Multiservice Innovation Centre already had planning permission and was fully costed. Projects must be ready-to-go, otherwise we could damage our great relationship with the Department.” He added that a forthcoming workshop would provide full details on what was required.
Cathaoirleach, Councillor Joe Garrihy said Councillor Murphy’s was “an excellent motion”. “This is close to my heart,” he said, nothing that Covid-19 was changing the way projects were being looked at.
A formal response to the motion, from Siobhán O’Reilly, Administrative Officer with Rural Development said a review was being undertaken having regard to the West Clare Plan of Strategic Projects, which is at final draft stage.
“A third call for Category 1 applications under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund is now open and the deadline for applications for same is 12 noon on the December 1, 2020,” the response said. “The primary focus of this third call for applications under the Fund is to ensure that the investment provided can act as a key driver for economic recovery in the post Covid-19 environment, providing an immediate stimulus to support the recovery and further development of rural economies and communities and deliver planned and sustainable regeneration in towns and villages, driving greater economic activity and footfall, addressing dereliction and ensuring the re-use of buildings.”
The response added that The Town and Village, Clár and Outdoor Recreation Schemes are also currently open for applications. “The focus for 2020 applications is on appropriate interventions that can respond to the new challenges associated with Covid-19,” it stated, “and support the economic and social recovery of rural towns and villages.”

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