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Councillor PJ Kelly has taken Clare County Council to task over the LIS loan. Photograph by John Kelly.

‘Old Bog Road’ not a hit with Clare Council, complains Kelly

FUNDING concerns have prompted a West Clare councillor to remark that “’The Old Bog Road is not in the Top 20’ when it comes to the priorities of the local authority.
Councillor PJ Kelly made his comments as he tabled a motion before the July county council meeting asking why a decision, made five years ago, to raise a significant loan for local roads was not complied with.
The Local Improvement Scheme (LIS), which has funded privately-owned roads for several decades, was scrapped temporarily between 2012 and 2017, prompting a country-wide outcry. In response to that situation, Councillor Kelly tabled a motion in March of 2016 proposing the raising of a loan of €1.6m. He cited the centenary of the 1916 Proclamation and its aim to “cherish all people of the national equally”.
At the time, the motion went to a vote and was supported by all 24 members present. At last week’s local authority meeting, Councillor PJ Kelly asked why that vote was not complied with. The Fianna Fáil member said there were up to 700 families without proper road access to their properties. “The matter was not pursued,” he said. “At the same time, we funded a €1.7m white elephant at the Market in Ennis. I’m not blaming any officials for this, but we disappointed and let down the people of rural Clare. We have raised lots of loans and had all-party agreement. At this stage, we can comply with members’ wishes and reactivate the process. It looks like ‘The Old Bog Road’ is not in the Top 20 when it comes to the council’s priorities.”
Responding, Chief Executive Pat Dowling insisted that the authority has been very effective in securing funds under the LIS scheme. “We have been very successful in our national lobby and have now doubled our allocation,” he said. “We’ll get through the backlog. We have been lobbying Heather Humphries’ Department and we have been heard loud and clear and she will make more funding available.”
Councillor Kelly replied that he accepted Mr Dowling would not spare his efforts to secure funding. “We are only doing around ten roads per year, though,” he said, “and that’s not enough.”
On a point of clarification, Councillor Johnny Flynn said the covered market in Ennis had cost just €500,000. “€1.25m went towards water and sewerage infrastructure, car parking and footpaths,” he said. “We are getting €50,000 per annum, so it’s more than paying its way.”
In a written response to Councillor Kelly’s motion, Senior Engineer John Leahy outlined the process of considering the loan application in 2016.
“Following the adoption of a resolution in March 2016, an application for loan approval to the value of €1.6m was submitted to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government,” his reply explained. “A response from the Department sought further information specifically in relation to (a) the term of the loan (b) the interest rate of the loan (c) the provision to repay the loan and (d) the sources of finance. The correspondence also specified that the council had to show a provision to repay the loan within the 2016 budget and future budgets or demonstrate a source of funding to be used to repay the loan.
“As the 2016 Budget did not contain any such provisions a response issue to the Department which confirmed the matter including the queries raised would receive further consideration in the course of the 2017 Budget discussions. The outcome of the 2017 Budget process introduced GMA funding to the value of €880,000, which was applied at Municipal District level towards an agreed programme of works including local road improvement works. The 2017 adopted budget and subsequent budgets did not contain specific provisions to service the proposed loan of €1.6m. GMA funding across all Municipal Districts for 2021 is €1.27m.
“It should be noted that the Local Improvement Scheme applies to private roads only. The local authority focus is one the public road network as a priority.”
At the meeting, Mr Leahy also told members he had just received word on added LIS funds. “Last year, we got funding for our initial list,” he explained. “We have a supplementary list, but that was rejected. We have now resubmitted that supplementary list and are seeking to double our allocation. We had €500,000 at the start of the year and are hoping to secure a total of €1m. I’ve spoken to all Municipal Districts about their priorities and we have an ambitious target.”

About Fiona McGarry

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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