By Dan Walsh at Enniscorthy Municipal Council Meeting
Angry sentiments were aired at today’s (Monday) monthly meeting of Enniscorthy Municipal District Council when the six elected representatives who had formed a working committee some three years ago were informed that they could only have a single representative on the Town Centre First team.
Ructions broke out following a presentation by Mick McCormick, Town Regeneration Officer, with special responsibility for New Ross and Enniscorthy, who outlined the Town Centre First- A Policy Approach for Irish Towns.
Cathaoirleach Cllr Aidan Browne said the plan was “ambitious and a chance to make Enniscorthy special and great” but the mood dropped when it emerged that only one elected member could serve on the committee and five would be disappointed!
Cllr Cathal Byrne had concerns about the new Town Centre First elected representatives being reduced from six to one which he claimed; “dilutes the democratic mandate”. He added that “we need to be ambitious, but pointed out that claims for funding opens at the end of June and ‘six steps’ need to be completed before March 10th.”
Cllr Barbara-Anne Murphy said she felt “really frustrated” and stated that Enniscorthy was not “a one-size fits all town” and the reduction of elected members was “undermining democracy.”
Mr. McCormick said these are the rules and must be followed to have any chance of securing URDF (Urban Regeneration and Development Fund) funds.
Cllr Jackser Owens felt ‘insulted’. He said they had worked for three and a half years as the Enniscorthy Team and now five members are gone! We want six members for the Enniscorthy Team and fight as a team to get €5 or 6 million. “This is not acceptable. It is an insult to the elected members of Enniscorthy district,” he concluded.
Cllr Kathleen Codd-Nolan had concerns about Templeshannon. “We have had a lot of negotiation with the businesses over there and we need to have this stuff sorted. Templeshannon must be included in URDF Round 4.
Cllr John O’Rourke described Templeshannon as “the forgotten people” and emphasised that “we must put plans together and have a committee together. This is a kick in the teeth, and we must put our shoulder to the wheel for a cleaner Enniscorthy for the people of Enniscorthy. It must be fair and equal.”
At this point Mr. McCormick interjected and pointed out; “These are the rules of the game” and felt that doing otherwise could put the application for funding in jeopardy.
Cllr Byrne suggested; “Continue as we are. The committee remains in place. Call a meeting and invite the three Oireachtas members from the town,” (Cllr Owens seconded), and added; “We are kicked off the committee after three and a half years because the guidelines say one!”
Cllr Murphy referred to two URDF applications and asked who gets the final say? Mr. McCormick said the Municipal Council is the premier town authority, but the final say will be with the Town Teams.
“Not one person is going off this committee. We are going to fight it to the end,” thundered Cllr Owens.
At this point an Cathaoirleach told members that a decision had to be made today. The Council will have one member on the Town Team (the Cathaoirleach of the day) and it was agreed that the working group continue in an advisory capacity.
Mr. McCormick told the members that Town Centre First was both a policy approach equally applying to cities and small villages and an action plan specifically focussed on our towns and encourages Government Departments, Local Authorities, businesses and communities to put town centres at the heart of decision making.
Launched last February the Town Centre First policy aims to create town centres that function as viable, vibrant and attractive locations for people to live, work and visit, while also functioning as the service, social, cultural and recreational hub for the local community.
The key roles of the Town Team are to comprise of local experts and made of diverse groups such as residents, business owners, community representatives etc. and may also have one local authority member, Public Partnership Network (PPN) member, representatives of tourism, culture groups etc.