A protest march will take place this Saturday in Ennis following the recent decision to demolish six structurally sound cottages on Francis Street to build a temporary car park which has left many Clare residents outraged.
With estimates provided by the councillors in favour of the demolition stating it could cost upwards of €600,000, campaigners argue that the funds could be better spent renovating these properties, which could provide much-needed social housing for the local community. Furthermore, the space to the rear of the cottages provides an opportunity for even more housing to be built.
The Ennis municipal district councillors’ decision has united various community groups, who have now come together under the banner of the Francis Street Alliance.
The Save Francis Street Alliance is calling on residents of Ennis and throughout Clare to join in a planned march this Saturday to save six council cottages from demolition. Organisers are urgently requesting that people attend the “Save Francis Street March” to demonstrate their opposition to the planned demolition and help raise awareness about the housing crisis in Clare.
The march will take place on Saturday, April 15th, at 1pm. Participants are asked to gather at the car park of Glór, the cultural center located on Causeway Link Road in Ennis, and then march down Francis Street towards the Clare County Council offices on New Road.
“Speakers and attendees will then gather in front of the County Council Offices on New Road,” the organisers said in a statement.
“All residents of Clare are invited to join the Save Francis Street march this Saturday. We need urgent action to prevent the demolition of these six council cottages in Ennis. These houses could provide much-needed accommodation to those in need. We urge everyone to stand in solidarity with us and make your voices heard on this critical issue.” Tim Hannon, Clare Chair of the Community Action Tenants Union (CATU), stated, “It is scandalous that
Ennis councillors have approved the demolition of these cottages at a time when families in all parts of Clare are being evicted into homelessness, and no emergency accommodation is available. This decision shows a clear lack of understanding of the housing crisis in our county.” The decision to demolish the cottages is at odds with the Housing for All Strategy, which aims to increase the availability of affordable and public housing in Clare. The demolition is a short-term gain that will only benefit a few, rather than addressing the wider housing crisis in the county.
“The councillors who voted in favour of this demolition have clearly demonstrated their lack of commitment to tackling the housing crisis in Clare,” said Tommy Guilfoyle, Chairman of the Ennis Sinn Féin Cumann.
“The Francis Street Site is Council property, and we believe that it should be used to build much-needed houses. We also believe that the Abbey Street carpark must remain in public ownership and open for use by the community. This space provides an important venue for festivals and other amenities in Co. Clare’s main town.”
Dermot Hayes, representing the disability group Clare Leader Forum, highlighted that the cottages would be suitable for single people with accessibility issues. “It is disappointing to see that the council is willing to demolish structurally sound cottages that could provide accessible housing for people with disabilities in our community.”
The current dispute over the demolition of the Francis Street cottages and the subsequent construction of a “temporary” car park shows remarkable parallels with a previous controversy that shook the town only a few years ago, involving the Ennis Market Building, which carried a staggering price tag of €1.75m. However, as the project has dragged on, it became increasingly clear that the promises made by its advocates including former Mayor Ann Norton, were far from reality. Moreover, the construction of the “temporary” car park serves, in part, to support the redevelopment of Abbey Street car park into commercial property.
However, it should be noted that there is already vacant commercial property in the town. The proposed benefits of this development include job creation, but the pressing question arises: where will these workers find suitable housing? The Save Francis Street Alliance expresses deep concern about the authority granted to the Ennis 2040 DAC and the potential privatisation of publicly owned assets. The organisation believes that it is crucial for the town’s resources and assets to be managed in the best interests of the local community and the wider county. The Alliance urges all relevant parties to ensure that public assets are not transferred to private entities.
The alliance fears a recurrence of the scandals that marred the Galway 2020 project if there is insufficient transparency and oversight from the local community.