Concerns about the effects of Britain’s exit from the European Union prompted Fianna Fáil councillor Pat McMahon to raise the issue at the June meeting of Clare County Council.
In his motion Cllr McMahon asked the local authority to consider the implications of Brexit for the people of Clare particularly in the areas of employment, agriculture, aviation, industry etc.
Responding on behalf of the council, deputy CEO Gerard Dollard said, “The potential of Brexit represents a major policy challenge for Ireland. Depending on the particular approaches adopted as part of negotiations between the UK and EU, positive and negative impacts may arise.”
Commenting on his motion, Cllr McMahon said there has been serious concerns in Ireland since Britain voted to leave the EU. He claimed that the 116,000 people resident in County Clare will be totally ignored during the negotiations. As the main EU negotiator is Michel Barnier and it is he who will represent Irish interests, Cllr McMahon said ordinary people in Ireland will not have their concerns heard at official level and the Government has been reduced to a bystander, waiting and watching to see what deal emerges.
Cllr McMahon said he attended a local government seminar where it was estimated that 40,000 to 60,000 jobs will be lost in Ireland as a direct result of Brexit. His immediate concern is any potential effects of Brexit on Shannon Airport. Cllr Mahon said that if the airport and the region depending on it are going to be affected then the people of this area must have their voices heard in the negotiations.
In particular he claimed that passenger business at Shannon Airport from the main Heathrow hub could be drastically affected and could possibly be lost once again. “This reminds me of the captain of the Titanic waiting for the iceberg and wondering what will happen. Likewise we spend our time discussing a hard or soft Brexit”. Cllr McMahon wants Clare County Council to organise a seminar and invite interested parties from industry, tourism and farming to formulate a response to Government outlining the potential damage that could be caused to County Clare.
Offering his full support to the proposal, Cllr PJ Ryan said events are changing by the day as far as Brexit is concerned. He agreed that the people of Clare need a voice to speak up on their behalf. Cllr Ryan said the core industries in this county including tourism, agriculture, industry and aviation, could be negatively affected by Brexit as people don’t know what to expect in the future. Before closing, Cllr Ryan pondered whether there could be positives as well as negatives arising from Brexit.
Cllr Christy Curtin noted that Teagasc and Failte Ireland have published documents concerning the effects of Brexit on the agriculture and tourism industries and said he fears for the future.
According to Ger Dollard, Enterprise Ireland has organised a regional briefing for small and medium enterprises who may have an exposure to Brexit or are concerned about competition in the marketplace. Mr Dollard said the local government sector is engaged at national level through the City and County Management Association to provide inputs and analysis on the various discussions that are underway. He said the council will continue to monitor emerging developments and feed back comments and inputs from councillors as the Brexit negotiations progress.