THE abolition of the Ennistymon Electoral Area later this year was described as “a retrograde step” by a local representative. Councillor Michael Hillery was speaking at the final Ennistymon Electoral Area meeting held on Monday.
In May, the electoral area boundaries change and a large part of the existing Ennistymon Electoral Area will merge with the existing Kilrush Electoral Area, while the remaining part will join with the East Clare Electoral Area.
Local area meetings for the larger North Clare area will now take place in the new municipal centre in Kilrush. “I feel it is a retrograde step that the area is being disbanded and the main office is going to be in Kilrush. This will be a great loss to North Clare,” Councillor Hillery said.
“This will continue as a service centre,” said Niall Barrett, Clare County Council director of service and area co-prdinator. Councillor Bill Slattery stressed that it remained unclear in “what form” the Ennistymon office would remain open.
Mr Barrett said that plans were at an “advanced stage” with the unions but that the process was not yet finalised. He stated that there would continue to be an engineer presence in the Ennistymon office and that the office would continue to offer some services to the public.
Tributes were paid to Councillor Michael Kelly. At the end of last year, he announced that he is to retire from local politics and will not be running in May’s elections. He thanked the staff of the North Clare office for the manner in which they dealt with him since he was co-opted onto the council to replace Enda Mulkere in 1997.
Councillor Michael Hillery described Councillor Kelly as a “great colleague who will be sadly missed”. He wished his party colleague a happy retirement recalling that he [Councillor Hillery] had some experience of retiring, having “retired myself a few times”.
Councillor Bill Slattery noted that since being co-opted to Clare County Council, after Martin Conway was elected to the Senate, he had found Councillor Kelly to be “very practical in his approach to issues” and “very helpful to me, even though we were in different political parties.”
Niall Barrett also wished Councillor Kelly well. The area’s senior executive engineer, Stephen Lahiffe, extended his good wishes to Councillor Kelly.
“From a personal point of view, I have always found [Councillor Kelly] to have been honourable in his dealings with me, even if he could be forceful when he felt strongly about an issue,” he said.
He wished all the area’s councillors well in the upcoming local elections. Mr Lahiffe said that the last term had proved challenging for all in the Ennistymon area.
“The last five years have been very difficult from the point of view of finance,” he said, adding, “Money has been cut but what you’ve achieved in this area is very good, especially in relation to national roads.”
The Fianna Fáil man received more than 1,000 votes in 1999 but was not elected. He won the first seat in the Ennistymon Electoral Area in 2004 and was re-elected in 2009.