Businessman claims County Limerick town ‘is in a state of emergency’

Aine Fitzgerald

Reporter:

Aine Fitzgerald

Val Moloney pictured on Sarsfield Street, Kilmallock this week

Val Moloney pictured on Sarsfield Street, Kilmallock this week

A well-known businessman and former chairman of Kilmallock GAA club says the County Limerick town is “in a state of emergency”.

Kilmallock native Val Moloney has called for the formation of a task force, saying the town is “bordering on becoming a black spot”.

“People are in their comfort zone and nobody is acknowledging it. They are all sitting back and saying nothing. The council needs to be shaken into some form of action. We are currently rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” said Mr Moloney this week.

“It’s serious enough that we can’t be waiting for people to be sorting out the wrinkles and the politics that go on.”

Mr Moloney, a former business man, now retired, is “trying to start a movement to analyse what the real situation is and then knowing the real situation we can stop the denial and do something about it.

“I’m just a person majorly concerned about the future of Kilmallock,” he continued.

His comments follow a number of Community Planning meetings in the town in recent weeks, facilitated by Ballyhoura Development, which have been looking at “reaching agreement on local priorities” and at “bringing in more resources and services to the town”.

A number of key statistics were highlighted at the first of the three meetings, which Mr Moloney has described as “shocking”.

“This is extraordinary - there are 14 areas in Kilmallock and by national definition there are 13 of them deprived. This is from the Central Statistics Office from the last Census in 2016. Now that’s shocking,” he said.

According to the 2016 figures the average unemployment rate at that time for Kilmallock was 18.61%.

“The national average was 12.91% and we’re 18.61% so we were 50% higher than the national average. We were also 30% higher than the Limerick average,” said Mr Moloney.

“The figures also show that 35% had not completed school and the national average was at 27.5%. The national average of third level graduates was 30%, Kilmallock was at around 12%. It’s shocking,” he reiterated, adding that those with disability in Kilmallock according to the 2016 Census “was 50% higher than the national average”.

When contacted this week, local councillor Mike Donegan of Fianna Fail said he didn’t believe the town was in “a state of emergency” and said he is not in favour of the formation of a task force.

“There are negatives like any town. I wouldn’t say it’s a state of emergency. We have problems but I don’t think we need a task force,” he said.

“Last year we did a SWOT analysis - strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to Kilmallock; the strengths were the GAA, the heritage, the tourism, the Medieval tours, the extension to the secondary school, the new national school. We have had a lot of money invested in the old technical school.

“We were also the Bank of Ireland Enterprise town runner-up last year.

“We know there is a transport problem, anti-social behaviour including the selling of drugs and all these things are being brought to the attention of the gardai. We have had CCTV installed. There is the new footbridge,” said Cllr Donegan who is also chairperson of Kilmallock Tourism Development, chairperson of  Kilmallock Partnership and is also a member of Kilmallock Community Council.

Cllr Donegan said an economic plan has been done in conjunction with the town traders which will feed into the local area plan which is up for renewal next year.

“I am trying to ensure both reports come before the municipal district - the community socio-economic plan and the traders’ plan - that they are presented to the council highlighting what needs to be done and what direction we want to go in, in the next five years,” he said.

“We are looking at promoting and marketing the business park. What we are looking at is setting up a business development team through the town traders so we can look at the bigger picture like communications within the bigger groups.”

Mr Moloney however, is calling on the chief executive of Limerick City and County Council, Conn Murray, and local TDs Niall Collins, Patrick O’Donovan and Tom Neville to recognise the issues and support the formation of a task force.

“I would be looking for a task force or a focus group or something from the stakeholders to get involved as soon as possible. There is a bit of work being done by people. There are people trying to get the town up off its knees. They are going through a process which is fair enough but there can be a parallel process. We have to highlight this. It’s not mutually exclusive,” said Mr Moloney who is now retired but in the past opened up a fibre optic plant in telecommunications creating 40 jobs and also started a company in Charleville in the auto business which created 10 jobs.

“I said I’m not waiting six months to sort things out.  This is serious and deserves immediate attention. Greg Conway of the Community Alert has also called for a consultation group to include all the key stakeholders which would look at identifying the key issues and how we would address them.”

Tony Dowling,  chairperson of Kilmallock Community Council said that what the town is missing is investment and he said it is possibly experiencing “a bit of an identity crisis”.

“We really are fairly bad. But a state of emergency, I don’t know,” he said.

“I think the town is missing investment. And I think we are having a bit of an identity crisis really. We don’t buy into the town. We don’t support the town.  We definitely need more industry in the town. I know it’s very easy to say the grass is always greener but if you go to Charleville, there is industry, there is employment there. People go back there to shop.”

Mr Dowling said he was “taken aback” on the night of the first meeting to see the statistics.

“It would be great to sit down with Conn Murray but what’s he going to say to us? Maybe there is a plan out there that we are not aware of. Maybe to start the process we could sit down with Conn Murray or some of his colleagues and say, ‘Look, where are we going and what is the plan for the town?’.”

The next Community Planning meeting takes place in the former girls’ school in Kilmallock next Tuesday,  November 20 at 8pm.