DRAMA was kept to a minimum when members of Clare County Council gathered at Glór in Ennis for their first full meeting since the lockdown.
The state-of-the art auditorium, which has capacity for 485, enabled the attendance of councillors, media and the general public, while also ensuring social distancing.
“It’s great to see you all,” said CEO Pat Dowling. “We’ve missed you – a little.”
Monday’s meeting coincided with the first day of Phase Two of the road map for the re-opening of Ireland and provided an opportunity for local authority members to assess the impact to-date of Covid-19 on Clare, and to consider the actions needed and the choices to be made to turn the county’s fortunes around.
Any councillor considering making a song and dance, in a venue more accustomed to theatrical performances than political ones, would have been dissuaded by the CEO’s sombre account of the economic impact of the coronavirus. Outlining the additional expenditure of €500,000, as part of the Covid-19 response, as well as the likely loss of €19.7 million in rates income, Mr Dowling warned of tough times ahead. “It is with a heavy heart and a clear head that we go forward,” he said. “There is fear of the unknown, but there is also a fear of the loss of the known.”
Welcoming members to their new temporary home, Bob Brannock, Chairperson of the Board of Glór, thanked Mr Dowling and council members for their support and said the time had come for “calm and thoughtful leadership and decisive action”. He also noted that Glór Director Órla Flanagan was working hard with her team to continue to bring the arts to the people of Clare and said the council’s support was essential to this.
Cathaoirleach, Councillor Clare Colleran-Molloy moved the suspension of standing orders to allow the meeting to proceed at Glór, a venue the authority is likely to require for some time. “It is very positive to have Glór until the medical guidance changes,” she noted, adding that there was “some light glimmer of hope” as Phase Two begins.
Arrangements for council meetings during lockdown have not been without controversy. The May meeting was deferred, while the April meeting went ahead at Áras Chontae an Chláir, with a reduced attendance and without members of the media present. Twelve councillors attended on the basis of their membership of parties and alliances.
With a firm deadline to end last Monday’s proceedings by 6.30pm, there was no time for lengthy monologues. Mr Dowling assured members that despite the challenges ahead, the authority was well placed to respond. “We are robust as an organisation,” he said. “We are up to the task of recovery, however long it takes. There will be a hard slog, there is no doubt. We won’t be able to respond to frivolous matters, often [raised] with mischievous intent.”