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Dr Conor McCabe speaking at the launch of the report.

One in six Clare houses empty, claims report on social exclusion

Ennis College Further Education

A LANDMARK study of poverty and social exclusion in Clare has described as “staggering” the difference between Census figures detailing 10,281 unoccupied dwellings in the county compared to just 53 vacant properties, according to Clare County Council figures.

The report cited Census figures showing an overall figure of 58,148 habitable dwellings in Clare. Of these, 47,867 were occupied, 4,912 were unoccupied holiday homes, and a further 5,369 were vacant dwellings.

This means that there were 10,281 unoccupied dwellings in the county, giving a total vacancy rate of 17.68% or nearly one in six houses in Clare.

Last July, there were just 10 properties for rent on Daft.ie for the entire county. According to Clare County Council, the report stated there are just 53 vacant properties in Clare.

The census figures do not include derelict buildings. They relate to dwellings that are in a generally good state and are habitable.

The report also outlined there are 4,912 vacant holiday homes in Clare compared to 4,722 tourism employees in the county.

These were just two of the startling findings of the report, ‘Towards an Anti-Poverty Strategy for Clare’, by economist and researcher Dr Conor McCabe, which also found a chronic lack of county-level data or research on poverty and marginalisation.

The report said poverty in rural Ireland is likely to be made worse by national policy, including the National Development Plan.

Sarah Clancy, Co-ordinator of Clare PPN, noted with the focus now on regional development, the specifics of local situations find little reflection in policy. Strategies that tell us that the Mid-West is doing well don’t reflect the situation in our small towns and rural communities.’’

Mary O’Donoghue of West Clare Family Resource Centre said the group don’t want to be running food banks, it wants solutions and a fair chance for all the people in our communities.

“Our organisations can advocate for social welfare increases and we can do our best to plaster over the cracks but this won’t compensate for a lack of equal access to health services, transport, housing, childcare or sustainable employment.

“The report shows us that even to be on a par with the national average we need 50% more dentists and 33% more GPs in Clare.”

The Council states that there are only two vacant dwellings in Ennis Electoral Area, but the Census found 1,092, not including holiday homes.

“Even taking into account the difference in the definition of ‘vacant’ between the Council and the Census – the Council views only long-term derelict as vacant, while the Census views empty but otherwise habitable as vacant – the gap between 53 on the one hand and 10,281 on the other is staggering. Even a cursory drive through Clare will show that there are more than 53 derelict dwellings in the county.”

The report questions plans for the development of a fossil fuel powered data centre in Ennis, which is likely to provide 30 to 50 direct jobs and about 200 temporary construction jobs.

It argued a proper housing programme for Clare would provide more construction jobs spread across the county and with more long-lasting benefit.

This project has been a key aim of Clare County Council who amended the current County Development Plan to zone land for one. “It is difficult to see how the population of Clare might benefit from this economic activity.”

The report found the 10-volume draft Clare County Development Plan 2023-2029 mentions poverty 16 times without clear plans and targets to tackle it.

“Since 2017 Clare County Council has spent over €21 million on consultants. It does not appear that any of that money was spent on finding up-to-date data on how many people work in Clare and in which sectors; how many are unemployed and where is it concentrated; the nature and extent of fuel, food, and child poverty in the county; ways to achieve a Just Transition given the county’s significant concentration of cattle farming and the risk posed by flooding; the number and location of abandoned, derelict, or vacant buildings; the gendered nature of poverty in Clare; nor on ways to measure and map the nature and extent of institutionalised discrimination and racism within public institutions that operate in the county.”

This report was commissioned by the Clare Public Participation Network, which is an organisation of 331 community and voluntary groups.

This report presents the findings from a nine-month long research project led by Dr Conor McCabe. Conor was assisted in the focus group aspects of the project by two peer researchers, Lily O’Donoghue and Madge O’Callaghan while Clare PPN staff, Sarah Ferrigan, William Hederman and Sarah Clancy oversaw the organisation of the project.

In response to Clare Champion queries, Clare County Council said it “has not had an opportunity to consider the contents of the report and cannot comment at this time. We will study it in detail and revert in due course.”

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