There are fears the town of Clonakilty may be left without festive street lights this Christmas following a recent decision by Cork County Council.
Businesses in the West Cork town are “shocked and upset” by a council plan to pass on the responsibility of putting up the Christmas lights to the local community.
The local authority is giving a €10,000 grant so that businesses and residents can do it themselves, rather than taking direct responsibility, but it is estimated that this is less than a third of what is needed. This follows a similar scheme introduced in Skibbereen in 2021.
Clonakilty businesswoman Oonagh Croke O’Donoghue, who runs Bella Donna on Pearse St, said she did not know if the town would have Christmas lights this year.
“It’s hard to look for funds in the times that we are in,” she told The Echo. “The rates have gone up a bit, the war has made things more expensive, and inflation is huge.
“Some people don’t have the extra cash, some people are struggling.”
The businesswoman, who has had a shop in the town for over 15 years, said it would be a huge loss to the area not to have the lights this Christmas.
“They create a great atmosphere, it enhances the town at Christmas, it brings Christmas spirit.”
Ms Croke O’Donoghue said that there is a lot of work involved in putting on the display — including storing the lights, repairing them, putting them up, maintaining them, and taking them down after the end of the festive season.
“There is about six weeks’ work involved in getting the lights up and bringing them down,” she estimated.
At the moment, the local community is trying to put together a committee that would look after the lights, and Ms Croke O’Donoghue said they are willing to look after the lights if the council can pay the additional €20,000 cost.
Fianna Fáil TD Christopher O’Sullivan, who is from Clonakilty, has written to Cork County Council, urging it to rethink the decision for the sake of local businesses and residents who have had it tough since the pandemic.
“This simply won’t work for the people and the businesses of Clonakilty, as the grant will go nowhere near covering the costs,” he stated.
The Cork South West TD said businesses are recovering from a tough time, and need to be better supported.
“These are businesses through a tough two and a half years, and they’re just starting to try to rebuild their businesses and bounce back from the pandemic,” he said.
“They continue to pay rates, and all they’re asking for in return is for Cork County Council to continue what I would see as a basic function of the local authority — to enhance the town during Christmas time.”