Rural communities are fighting back to preserve their towns and villages and in Clare, three towns in particular are mobilising themselves to ensure they build a bright future for their towns.
Under an new programme launched by Clare Local Development Company (CLDC), entitled “The Market Towns Initiative”, Kilrush, Scariff and Ennistymon are each building a new Community Strategy to protect the future of each of these unique market towns.
The project was launched by CLDC in 2017 in response to what they felt was a growing issue in Co. Clare. The effects of the a harsh economic climate and continued depopulation was becoming evident and proving challenging for these market towns. Under the Market Town Initiative CLDC, supported by LEADER funding, is providing the support for each of these towns to develop a new Town Strategy and support the delivery of these plans over a three years.
The Plan was based around the development of a local Town team in each location. Once in place, CLDC in association with Future Analytics Consultants has worked with each town over the last 12 months in developing a local Town Strategy for each. This was a lengthy process carried out in consultation with each local community. After twelve months of preparation, Kilrush, was the first of these towns officially launched their Town Strategy.
There was an air of high expectation amongst the 70 strong cohort who attended the official launch of Kilrush Town Team at the Digital Hub in Kilrush’s Town Hall last Thursday night, 9th May.It’s safe to say that they weren’t disappointed.
The event, which was sponsored by Kilrush Credit Union was opened by Chairperson Charlie Glynn who outlined the work that had been done since the group had formed. Mr. Glynn spoke about the team’s initial mission to develop a community strategy document for the town. This comprehensive document had been compiled based on community consultation 18 months ago facilitated by Future Analytics Consultants.
He noted that the group had gained strong momentum since September 2018 with weekly meetings and the team now have 6 projects in the pipeline – some of which are fully funded and have contracts signed. Amongst these projects are a Marketing and Brand Development Strategy for the town, the Community Wi-Fi project, a Tourism Development Strategy & Visitor Development Plan, the development of kilrush.ie – a website that will share information on the town for businesses, investors, visitors and for the community itself – and the Irish Architecture Foundation’s (IAF) Reimagine Programme. Kilrush was one of only 5 projects in Ireland selected by the IAF as part of the 2019 Reimagine Programme and it is envisaged that a strong feasibility study will emerge from the programme aimed at enhancing the usability of Kilrush’s historic streets based on community requirements.
Mr. Glynn emphasised that this ‘bottom up’ style strategy is a central theme in the community strategy developed by Kilrush Town Team.
Matt Heslin, CEO of Kilrush Credit Union spoke about the synergy between the aims and objectives of the Credit Union and those of the Kilrush Town Team. Doreen Graham, CEO of Clare Local Development Company, who pioneered the Market Towns initiative from which Kilrush Town Team stemmed, congratulated the team on the progress to date and called on more local groups to engage with the town team.
The night also featured two guest speaker, David Fitzsimons, CEO of Retail Excellence Ireland and Colm O’Brien, founder and managing director of Carambola Kidz.
David shared some valuable objective insight into retail trends and possibilities for businesses in Kilrush while Colm shared his personal story of highs, lows and more recent highs in the business world. His company Carambola Kidz supply healthy lunches to over 290 schools all over Ireland, including Kilrush.
In keeping with the speakers theme of ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’, the evening’s event concluded with a call to action from the Town Team. A call for more volunteers was the central point and attendees and community groups were invited to register with each of the Thematic group Leads at the event – Sport & Recreation, Public Realm, Community & Education, Tourism and Enterprise.
The Town team’s aim is to improve collaboration and communication amongst the community under these thematic headings and the community delivered on the night, eager to support this new project and work together as a community.
Afterwards, many dwelled, networked and brainstormed after the event’s proceedings had concluded – a sure sign that the event had stoked plenty of ideas and optimism amongst those who attended. It clear that the West Clare capital is emerging and on the right track to realising its potential.
The launch of the Scariff Town Team Community Strategy will take place on Tuesday 21st of May from 7pm to 9pm at the Derg Active Alliance Community Centre. All interested welcome to attend.
Meanwhile, Dr Michael Harty TD said the launch of Kilrush Town Team is very welcome coming as it does when many people in West Clare are wondering about the future of Moneypoint. He said there is no doubt that sustainable and coordinated approaches are needed to revitalise the town and this body which brings voluntary and business leaders together will have an important contribution to make.
Since last November, Dr. Harty said he has made numerous efforts to get clarification of what will happen after 2025 when coal burning at Moneypoint ceases. “I have written to the Minister Richard Bruton who has responsibility for Energy and also raised the matter in the Dáil on a number of occasions. The Minister told me earlier in the year that he expected a set of options from the ESB by the end of January. His more recent response to me would suggest that the ESB is not now providing him with that set of options and the situation is becoming less rather than more clear,” said Dr. Harty.
“This is happening while contractors are being let go at the power plant and worries grow about what might happen to some of the permanent staff. I have now written directly to Pat O’Doherty, the Chief Executive Officer of the ESB requesting a meeting to outline what the company’s future plans are. The ESB is a commercial semi-state company and while I understand issues of commercial sensitivity, it is not a secret society.
“We are talking about the lives and the economic future of many people in Kilrush and West Clare. Whilst I don’t expect all the details, I do want the ESB to outline how committed they are to the power station beyond 2025 and to the staff currently employed,” added Dr. Harty.
He said the Kilrush Town Team can be a powerful advocate for Moneypoint and are in an excellent position to articulate the importance of the power station to the town and the area. They also know what any downgrading and loss of jobs would mean.
If you would like to register interest with Kilrush Town Team under any of the thematic group headings, clubs, organisations and individuals are encouraged to do so via email firstname.lastname@example.org