€100,000 is to be spent on festivals and events in Ennis this year while a signifcant investment is being made towards Ballyalla Lake.
Elected members of the Ennis Municipal District passed the proposals from Director of Services, Gerard Dollard at its February meeting which saw the District allocate a total of €274,400 to different funds.
Festivals and event in the county town will receive the biggest amount (€100,000) followed by a footpath improvement programme (€50,000). €25,000 each will be spent on Ballyalla and Community/Arts Grants.
Ennis Tidy Towns is to receive €12,000 from the EMD while Clare Roots Society and Ennis Brass Band are in line for €3,000 and €2,500 respectively. A fee of €1,000 each is to be given to the Franciscan Friary, St Columbas, St Vincent de Paul, Ennis Gospel Choir and Ennis St John’s Community Games. €51,900 remains in the District’s funds which has yet to be allocated.
Addressing elected members, Gerard Dollard noted that significant additional funds are being made available and stressed that they “need to be strategic in use so the public can see an impact”.
Dollard referenced the Fleadh as it demonstrated how large-scale events can be held in the town of Ennis. He explained that the positive impact of the Fleadh on the local economy plus a possibility of the town growing festivals to an international scale prompted the decision to boost the allocation on this area to €100,000. Consultation is to commence with Ennis Chamber as to how they can develop festivals to a larger audience. He spoke of his desire to see footpaths improved all over the town and stated that the funding for Ballyalla Lake had been set aside from the work of Ennis Town Council.
Mayor of Ennis, Cllr Ann Norton was first to propose the Budget. “It is extremely important people see where the money is going. With Ennis being the hub town of the county, it is important that it is maintained and that the Municipal District is maintained within the environs”. She feels that the money is being used constructively and in a way that benefits everyone. Norton said that Ennis has proven itself as a town that can cater for extremely big and important festivals and acknowledged the magnitude of Clare County Council being seen to support events.
Fine Gael’s Johnny Flynn informed fellow elected members that at the height of the boom there was a €10 million budget for 25,000 people in Ennis Town Council. He calculated that the current budget is working out at a spend of €8 per person. “We have distributed this money as well as we can, we have to make Ennis a go-to town again, it had fallen off the radar”, Cllr Flynn stated.
“We must realise the additional funding has come from the property tax of the people of Clare”, said Cllr Tom McNamara. He clarified that this was only the Municipal District’s allocation from the property tax and not all of Co Clare. “We’re trying to touch as many people as we can with the limited funding available”. The Fianna Fáil Councillor maintains that the Budget will improve the local economy by attracting extra visitors, help estates around the county through works on footpaths, assist community groups with grants and provide local amenities.
Mary Howard was pleased to see an increase in funding towards festivals in the town and €12,000 for Ennis Tidy Towns. “Galway has twenty eight festivals, we’ve less than a dozen”, the Fine Gael Councillor stated before mentioning the large crowds that attend Trad Fest and the Ennis Book Club Festival. She claimed that Ballyalla was getting more and more use whilst welcoming the Budget as a whole.
Fianna Fáil’s Clare Colleran Molloy took a moment to praise the decision made by Councillors not to reduce the property tax. “It’s good to be in a position to be allocating resources because they have been so scarce. It was with great caution that we didn’t reduce property tax, Dollard has come back with suggestions on how we can improve facilities in Clare. People will see benefit that there wasn’t a reduction in property tax”.
Cllr James Breen felt the money was being spent well but was adamant that voluntary organisations must account for how they spend the money. Fine Gael’s Paul Murphy commented that it was “good to be in a position to increase on previous years”.
“Ballyalla is a gem in the town”, according to Cllr Pat Daly who greeted the Budget for 2017 with approval. He highlighted the importance of Ennis hosting festivals as he labelled it “a unique town with narrow streets”.