MORE than 160 outlets, including shops, pubs, post offices and banks, have closed in West Clare in the last 25 years. These approximate figures, which have been compiled by The Clare Champion, do not include additional outlets such as seasonal businesses in resort towns like Kilkee.
The figures show that the region, from Ballynacally to Kilbaha and up to Miltown, has lost 102 shops and 53 public houses since 1989, while AIB has closed outlets in Kildysart and Kilkee. Ballynacally, Coolmeen, Cranny, Cross and Knock have lost their post offices in that period.
In the last decade, Kilrush has lost eight pubs and a total of 53 businesses, including 19 in Moore Street alone. However, in the same period, 42 businesses have opened in the town.
The breakdown of what has closed in West Clare towns and villages during that period include: Ballynacally, two shops, one post office. Lissycasey, two pubs, two shops; Kildysart, three pubs, two shops and AIB branch; Cranny-Coolmeen, two pubs, two post offices, seven shops; Labasheeda-Kilmurry McMahon, five pubs, six shops, one post office (Knock); Killimer, one shop; Kilrush, eight pubs, 45 retail outlets; Kilkee, 18 pubs, seven shops, AIB; Carrigaholt, two pubs, two shops; Cross, one pub, one post office; Doonbeg, one pub, 10 retail outlets; Quilty-Mullagh, four pubs, six shops and Miltown Malbay, seven pubs and two shops.
As regards Kilrush, while 53 businesses have closed in the last 10 years, 42 new businesses have opened. In the liquor licensing trade, Kilrush lost eight pubs, leaving just eight licensed premises and one off-licence outlet.
The survey reveals that Moore Street has witnessed some 19 business closures since 2004, compared to just three new replacement enterprises.
In the town centre, encompassing Market Square, John Street and Burton Street, five businesses have closed down, to be replaced by six new commercial outlets. The other town centre, known locally as Place de Plouzané, saw nine businesses shutting their doors, with no new business start-ups.
Henry Street-Cooraclare Road is holding its own, as 10 shops have closed but have been replaced by 13 new concerns. The Vandeleur Street-Ennis Road area has fared extremely well in a very challenging environment, with four shops closing but being replaced by 10 new concerns, including the two multinationals, Tesco and Aldi.
On a more optimistic note, Frances Street appears to be leading the way in fighting the recession, with just seven shops calling it a day, while 16 new outlets, including anchor tenancies at Glynn’s Mills and the Enterprise House on the Cappa Road, are helping to provide a solid boost to the locality.
While real unemployment figures tilt towards 20% in Kilrush, the local economy has been greatly cushioned by the presence of the ESB plant at Moneypoint, the arrival of Billpost and Revenue to Enterprise House, the upgrading of the Kilrush Marina by L&M Keating Ltd, the development of the Glynn’s Mills and the opening of additional nursing homes.
The loss of two hotels in Kilrush, however, is seen as a major impediment to tourism development in the area.
“In spite of the admirable fight-back in a most challenging climate of austerity, there remains the stark and grim reality that some 80 commercial spaces in Kilrush still remain unoccupied,” former town mayor, Tom Prendeville, commented.
“Calls have been made in the recent past, at Kilrush Town Council level, asking the Ministers for Finance and the Environment to bring forward a Small Towns Renewal Scheme that would regenerate town centres, by addressing dereliction and introducing commercial rates remission incentives that would make town centres vibrant hubs of commercial activity,” Mr Prendeville added.
This survey of West Clare businesses was sparked by a blog by Mullagh journalist Colette Sexton, who outlined how her home village had become a ‘ghost’ area in recent years. She lists the loss of four shops and two pubs as evidence.
“It is really sad to see how empty the village is now and how much it has changed since I was a child. I’m 25 now and while a lot of my friends emigrated because they wanted the adventure, there are others that left because of financial necessity and who are too afraid to return, in case they are left jobless again.
“I am very lucky that I live in Dublin, so I can escape to the west to see my family and get some fresh air at least once a month,” Colette, who is a Sunday Business Post journalist, told The Clare Champion. “The more of the world I see, the more I realise that Clare is a wonderful place to live,but for a lot of its young people, it’s just not a viable choice in terms of job security and financial certainty,” she added.
Colette has found that anybody who had read her blog on www.colettesexton.ie agreed with what she had written. “Anyone can see that Mullagh has fallen on hard times in the past 10 years. There’s a suggestion that the shop in the square has been bought recently and it would be great if the new owner reopened it and injected a bit of life back into the village. We’ll have to wait and see.
“Hopefully, in 10 years’ time, we will be writing about the revival of Ireland’s rural communities,” she said.