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River Work: People Must Be Kept Informed

by Phil Funchion

The Callan Kings River Committee want to ensure that the people of Callan and the surrounding area are kept fully up to date on the campaign and efforts to have the King’s River returned to its position as the main focal point of the town.
At public meetings and through signed petitions the people have voiced their opinions that the restoration of their river is a top priority.
Regrettably, the river today remains clogged with silt islands, overgrown vegetation and riverbanks.
The progress made on the river restoration must not be allowed to stop.
One of the most frustrating points is that so many of the predicted environmental problems which were spoken about over the years has been resolved and what now stands between final restoration of the river and the current stagnation of the project is the provision of the Government funding to finish the job.

In 2017, the committee with the help of Kilkenny County Council resourced funding through the Town and Village Renewal Scheme which resulted in a report from an international environmental consultancy firm (SLR) which clearly stated that the works could be completed with no adverse effects on the integrity of the Special Area of Conservation.
This means that the local discussion about the presence of otters in the iver and various species of fish etc. are not the problem.
Those issues have been resolved. We now need the money which the people of Callan deserve.
In order to do this there is a need for the ‘funding merry-go-round’ to come to a halt and ensure that the necessary finance is provided.
This was the reason why in January, 2017, then Councillor Sean Tyrrell put forward a motion which was unanimously accepted by Kilkenny County Council.
The motion called for restoration of the river and the involvement of all the necessary organizations and authorities necessary to do this.
This was to prevent what is now taking place whereby each authority passes the issue to someone else.

Certainly, if council motions are to mean anything then all the relevant authorities and organizations need to sort out between themselves who fronts the bill which we the taxpayers ultimately pay as our river needs restoration now.
We have enough organizations in Ireland dealing with rivers from the Local Authorities, to the OPW, to Waterways Ireland, to the Inland Fisheries, to the Local Authorities Waters Programme that if each one took a decent truck load of silt from the river the problem would be resolved.
We have a Rural and Urban Regeneration Fund established since 2018 with one billion euro going to the former and two billion to the latter over an eight-year period.
We also have a flood relief fund of another billion over a 10- year period.
Our project, we are told, will cost approximately €350,000.
The latter figure pales into insignificance given the vast sums quoted.
Again, let us not forget that most important point that irrespective of what fund the money comes from, it is ultimately from us as taxpayers.
It is time now to finish the job. Our project is what they call ‘shovel ready’ and we are told that this is one of the criteria they use in determining to whom and to where the money goes.

We definitely can’t let the money spent to date to get this far go to waste.
Certainly if the people of Callan were to go about cleaning the river and removing the silt themselves the above ‘flood’ of organizations would react immediately to stop them.
Well if they have the authority to stop the River Restoration then let them also accept the responsibility to fund this same River Restoration and get on with returning our river to its previous picturesque state.

Phil Funchion is a committee member of Callan Kings River Committee

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