Clare County Council borrowed money from the Housing Finance Agency (HFA) to spend on Ennis market, according to an issue raised by Fianna Fáil councillor PJ Kelly last week.

Cllr Kelly submitted a motion requesting information on loan No. 170 for Ennis Market Development, specifically he requested the identity of the lender, the rate of interest paid and whether it was fixed or variable rate.

He received a concise reply from the council’s head of finance Niall Barrett which stated, “The loan for the Ennis Market Development is provided by the HFA, and is currently at a variable rate of 1.5%.”

Cllr Kelly recalled suggesting that the council establish a finance committee some time ago but when that didn’t happen he felt he had no other option but to table motions like this.

Welcoming Mr Barrett’s response, he said it is “quite revealing”. According to Cllr Kelly, it had previously been established that members of Clare County Council “never approved this loan”.

Cllr Kelly expressed his amazement that the funding of the loan had come from the Housing Finance Agency. He said the council had already borrowed €45.5m from the HFA. In March 2016, he was told that a substantial amount of this related to mortgages and funding for voluntary housing bodies.

“In this case,” he said, “ratepayers and those paying property tax in the county have 30 years to pay off one of the worst investments of my lifetime, this white elephant in the market.”

Cllr Kelly claimed that “the powers that be closed the market in Ennis”, and added car parking restrictions, as a result those who want a farmers market have moved out of town. Furthermore, he did not understand why the council borrowed money from the Housing Finance Agency for a commercial operation at a time when there is a critical housing shortage. Cllr Kelly claimed that the amount borrowed for the market would have built houses for twelve families. He also stated that this is one of the reasons why the council should have a finance committee to oversee such matters. “I am very disappointed that it has come to this. We have now accumulated loans in excess of €100m. I have no problem with useful borrowing for useful purposes but not projects like this, that have gone through without the approval of this council.” In mitigation, Fine Gael councillor Johnny Flynn said the loan totalled €1.75m and €1.25m of that

Cllr Kelly claimed that the amount borrowed for the market would have built houses for twelve families. He also stated that this is one of the reasons why the council should have a finance committee to oversee such matters. “I am very disappointed that it has come to this. We have now accumulated loans in excess of €100m. I have no problem with useful borrowing for useful purposes but not projects like this, that have gone through without the approval of this council.” In mitigation, Fine Gael councillor Johnny Flynn said the loan totalled €1.75m and €1.25m of that

“I am very disappointed that it has come to this. We have now accumulated loans in excess of €100m. I have no problem with useful borrowing for useful purposes but not projects like this, that have gone through without the approval of this council.” In mitigation, Fine Gael councillor Johnny Flynn said the loan totalled €1.75m and €1.25m of that

In mitigation, Fine Gael councillor Johnny Flynn said the loan totalled €1.75m of which €1.25m was spent on emergency repairs to sewers, water services and roads as Ennis Town Council had paid out on a lot of claims in that area.