Prior to the abolition of town councils, Shannon used to elect a mayor but under the new regime since 2014 the six Municipal District councillors form a local committee led by a Cathaoirleach however, the latest incumbent could just as easily be known as ‘sheriff’.
Since taking over the reins at Shannon Municipal District in the last few weeks, independent councillor Gerry Flynn has quickly set about attending to cleaning up the town and repairing the visible neglect of recent times.
Indeed, when the agenda of his first full meeting was presented on 17th July, Meelick-based councillor Cathal Crowe commented on the preponderance of items relating to Shannon Town.
An unapologetic Flynn said, “Cathal was bemoaning the fact that there is an extra focus now on Shannon but for years the town has been a poor relation and in more recent times has been in a state of decay.”
Cllr Flynn’s first act as Cathaoirleach was to introduce a presentation by local man Gary Fitzgibbon on the need for better mental health services, in particular, a community-based approach to suicide distress in young people.
His own motion, calling for a comprehensive maintenance policy to deal with grass-cutting, weed control, roadside sweeping and pruning of trees and shrubbery was passed with unanimous approval.
He also welcomed the council’s senior engineer Sean Lenihan who outlined a preliminary report on the integrity of Shannon’s flood defence embankments.
With climate change leading to more extreme weather events in recent years, Cllr Flynn has pursued this matter with vigour for the last couple of years in Clare County Council so that residents of Shannon will have long-term security in their homes and businesses.
He has also pressed the council to act on the awful mess left at Tullyvarraga Hill after the decimation of the forest ten years ago. In this regard, consultant Nick de Jong has been engaged to plan for a revitalisation of the woodland with new paths and a management plan that will be put into effect soon.
Another new scheme presented during Cllr Flynn’s first meeting in charge is an extension of the excellent new riverside paths to Bunratty Village and onwards to Sixmilebridge.
Flynn also has good news on the new Shannon Town Park which should have been finished this year. Clare County Council is re-tendering the project with 20th August the deadline for applications. A contractor is expected to be appointed in September.
The council is satisfied that the town park will be completed within the timeline allowed for the ERDF funding. “The message is clear,” said Cllr Flynn, “this is now going to happen.”
In another development, the Shannon Town and Environs Local Area Plan 2012-2018 published by Clare County Council anticipated that the population of the town would have grown to 11,972 by 2017.
As this didn’t happen, Shannon’s population of 9,729 did not meet the threshold for the Government’s €2 billion Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF).
However, because it is borderline the Government has indicated that it will now accept applications from Shannon in respect of the URDF. This scheme will provide 75% funding for innovative and transformational urban regeneration projects.
Project applications must be for a minimum of €2m subject to certain criteria including that projects are public-sector led with the option of community and/or private sector partners. Matching funds of at least 25% should be available from public or private sources.
This fund will be operated on a multi-annual basis, the first call will be September 2018 and subsequent calls in the years ahead. The state of readiness of a particular project will determine the which call it may be funded under.
The council is preparing applications for a number of projects in Shannon which will be ready for Call 1 in September. More details will be available in the near future but it is likely that the long-anticipated Shannon Venue will be among these projects.
Other possible projects identified in the local area plan include an aviation museum at Shannon Airport, further development of the Atlantic Air Venture business in Smithstown and Ballycasey Craft and Design Centre, although the latter has been put up for sale by Shannon Properties Ltd.