LATEST figures show that there are 7,513 Clare people receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
The figure has increased marginally over the last week, but is significantly lower than the peak number of 14,600 receiving it in early May. Across the country there are now 352,000 people in receipt of the PUP, a number that has increased by over 145,000 since the start of October.
The pandemic is wreaking destruction on the domestic economy in particular, and has shut down the county’s hospitality sector, which is particularly important in the west of Clare.
Kilkee-based Councillor Cillian Murphy said this week that his home town is very quiet. “There’s nowhere open, nowhere open. There’s probably two places in Kilkee to get coffee, just on a takeaway basis.
“When you have a big reliance on seasonal tourism that’s what can happen. At this time of year you’d have weekend trade, Monday to Thursday would be harmless enough especially in the run up to Christmas, people are minding themselves for Christmas, they’re not spending anyway.
“But I think it’s become very clear now, that inherent weakness of an over-reliance on tourism.”
He said that West Clare needs to expand its base of economic activity, and he feels there are signs that will be possible. “Really, we should be trying to broaden the base, we really have to start asking how do we diversify.
“We should be saying that tourism is very important, but we have always considered it to be bread and butter, and what we should be thinking of it is as cream and jam. We need to have a stronger base with a more diversified economy, which means we can ride out the shocks a bit better.
“Covid has allowed us to think that there is that potential, remote work has opened things up, I know for sure there are extra people living in Kilkee this winter. Businesses aren’t able to take advantage of it because they can’t open, but I think when you start to see things opening in a limited capacity it will be more visible.
“I would say there is comfortably a few hundred more people living in Kilkee at the minute, but with everything shut it doesn’t make a difference to the economy.”
He says that it may not be practical for local businesses to open up for a very short time, even if restrictions are lifted. “Ultimately we have to look at it, if a business opens for three weeks and takes on staff, will those people be allowed back onto the PUP payment if they come off it?
“Businesses are having to juggle a lot of things. If the Government were to say bars and restaurants can open over Christmas, well in a place like Kilkee that might have four or five days of business, is it really viable to open and have staff for just four or five days and shut the door again?
“I know from being a business person that you can’t do that. It’s almost impossible to ramp up and then shut the door, you need to have some certainty.” Councillor Murphy said that people can often struggle in November anyway, with long dark nights and bad weather and he urged people to try and stay active.