Chamber and Council Didn’t Drop the NTA Funding Ball – M.J. Kearney

Castleisland Chamber Alliance Chairman, Michael John Kearney responding to charges of ‘ball-dropping’ between his group and Kerry County Council after the town’s failure to attract a share of the National Transport Authority €5.5M funding allocation at the end of March.
Lena Peter from Switzerland enjoying what she described a ‘the most beautiful view’ at Glounsharoon on Tuesday evening. Ms. Peter is an exchange student currently attending Presentation Castleisland. Michael John Kearney and the local chamber alliance are hoping that many more visitors will stop and enjoy the views and the proposed facilities there in the not too distant future. ©Photograph: John Reidy

Castleisland Chamber Alliance Chairman Michael John Kearney, in the following article, is addressing the perception that the chamber and Kerry County Council had dropped the ball between them in terms of Castleisland’s pointed exclusion from the National Transport Authority (NTA) funding announcement at the end of March.

In that windfall, the towns of Killarney, Tralee, Listowel, Kenmare, Killorglin and Dingle all shared in a €5.5M allocation for cycle-ways and footpaths with nothing coming Castleisland’s way – and people wondered why.

The Chamber’s Response

“The chamber, like many other like-minded people, is focused on the strategic development of the town to its full potential across retail, cultural, and tourism project attractions and as an industry and business services centre.

Progress in these areas will drive the development of the town as a place to live, work and play and also to visit.

Wide of the Mark
We are very disappointed with the outcome of the allocation  of the NTA funding.

To say that the chamber and the council have dropped the ball is wide of the mark. As a voluntary body, the chamber has worked with the council executive and with sitting councillors at various times in the development of plans for the town and region on each of the above mentioned topics.
In 2018, with funding secured by the council, a town audit was conducted which in turn informed a major submission by the chamber, to the new county development plan covering 2022 to 2028.

Result of Discussions

This submission, which also included the result of discussions with many stakeholders covered all the initiatives now being worked on and discussed with the council executive on a working basis since then. Our most recent session was on April 15th.
The Maine Valley Post and sitting Castleisland councillors have been furnished with the submission.

The motion put before the council in January, in relation to footpaths for Castleisland, which the chamber co-ordinated with all four local councillors, and which was furnished to you, was in furtherance of elements of that submission.

Switch To Active Travel
However the NTA funding, in the words of Eamon Ryan at its launch, is directed at projects providing green sustainable transport options to those outside large urban centres….. developing high quality walking and cycling facilities will encourage more people to switch to active travel and will contribute to tackling climate change. …. connecting communities and making walking and cycling attractive, safe and accessible to everyone. Unfortunately our motion didn’t impact enough to get Castleisland on the radar of the NTA project. The project hasn’t been developed out enough to be considered. That is not to say that it will not be the subject of further Town and Village funding rounds.
Not Quick Fixes to Local Issues
Projects under the NTA scheme we understand now, are not quick fixes to local issues, but part of a broader plan to promote walking and cycling facilities in a networked way.
We have made submissions to the county development plan, for developing the town and region through the planning process outlined by the council, and with the backing of the majority of LEA councillors showing support and engagement with it – taking a broader long term view. 

Well Thought Out Plan
We understand that it has to be in the context of a well thought out plan that strategic development projects get dealt with and delivered, as opposed to hoping for the inclusion of ribbon short term projects that may not fit the overall strategy of these long term strategic funding projects.
Of course smaller projects should happen, but it is probably more appropriate to consider them in other funding programs, such as councillor allocations or town and village or Clár funding.

Insisting on their inclusion in the NTA, a program where it is patently clear that they are not suited, shows a lack of understanding of local government processes and drives divisions between stakeholders that may impinge on other regional developments being rolled out in time through other annual funding rounds aimed at towns and villages such as we have in the Castleisland district.

Channels of Communication
It is also worth pointing out that the operations of national and local government are carried out by executive functions and the people within them who manage the processes within the rules of governance and compliance that order those processes.
It is important that channels of communication and professional working relationships are maintained between all stakeholders in the mix, including communities, community representative bodies, elected representatives and those charged with delivery of the actions.

Process of Evaluation
Failure to keep communications and relationships open and honest and to apply best practice in our dealings with others damages trust and confidence in any process.
As various streams of funding come available addressing the needs that exist both at operational and strategic levels, we are guided by the council executive as to the most appropriate channel with the most likely chance of success following a process of evaluation both within Kerry County Council and at national level as to their qualification and priority.

Success of Carnegie Library Renovation
There will be wins and losses as is evidenced by history.
The Carnegie Library renovation is one such success, as is the Grant of €96,300 for detailed survey and design under the 2020 Town and Villages scheme, investigating enhanced connectivity at the top of the Town between neighbourhoods, schools, community facilities and amenities and to carry out a study of vacant and derelict properties in the Town.

Cycleway to Desmond – A Win

The enhanced cycle-way to the Desmond’s facility is also a win. Unfortunately the inner relief road application didn’t make it through the Dept  of Transport but will will now be directed at the Active Travel space.

The Covid emergency fund has a grant of €25k approved for seating, bicycle racks and flower plantings on the Main Street, and these will be rolled out in this month of April.

And there’s more to come in the current year, we believe, in the shape of enhancements to Glounsharoon vista area and outdoor dining on the street.

Advocating in Unison

All that’s needed is a community, the chamber and local elected councillors and TDs advocating in unison for an agreed plan, to the appropriate bodies holding the funds suited to the demonstrated needs.

In post Covid times we hope to get back to business as usual where all interested parties can come together to advance our town which we all believe still has enormous unrealised potential.”

Mr. Kearney’s letter of explanation on the chamber’s position is in response to an article in The Maine Valley Post on March 31st last which you can see with a click on the link here:

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