Cowen home to be demolished

Old Clara                        Cowen                Imminent Demolition

No pilgrimages
Despite predictions today that 50,000 will turn out to welcome homecoming Taoiseach Brian Cowen in Clara, Co Offaly, we are unlikely to be making pilgrimage to the Cowen family home there in the long term since it is about to be demolished. Monticello it will not be.

No Tears
Presumably the fact that the demolition is of no concern to anyone close to Cowen heralds the stiff-upper-lip attitude to heritage so desirable in our chief and his powerful entourage. It is doubtful if the locals will be queueing for bricks from the great man’s former seat.

But some confusion

Normally John Drennan who writes for the Sunday Independent is vicious, however, in today’s edition he is inexplicably sappy about the Cowen pub. He hails “the decentralisation of power to Christy Cowen’s bar in Clara”. Not for long. There is no end to his mawkishness. He says “Cowen’s surprisingly passionate support of the concept of ‘Community’ is itself no mere concept. It is grounded in the belief that the Inniskeen-like paradise of Christy’s bar in Clara – with its ritual slagging, the lyrical sound of Micheal O’ Muircheartaigh in summer and its stolid farmers gleefully perusing the local death notices – is more authentic than the provincial sophistication of Dublin”. Drennan and Cowen probably share a confused cultural soft-mindedness. For if Christy’s is an analogue for Cowen’s Communitarianism, the future is libertarian.

Drennan is presumably plumbing his own soul when he declares Cowen is a “secret sentimentalist”. But sometimes sentimentalism is so secret that it is irrelevant. When the roof falls through on Christy’s, the animator will not be sentimentalism, even secret sentimentalism. It will be casual a-cultural avarice.

Home and Work for young Brian
The pub belonged to the Cowen family and was located adjacent to the family home where Brian grew up. His father, former TD Ber, who died at 52 in 1984, also worked as an auctioneer. From an early age, Brian Cowen frequently worked as a barman in the pub. He has said working there significantly influenced his outlook and character. He has two brothers — Christopher and Barry. Barry is also involved in politics and is a Fianna Fáil Councillor on Offaly County Council. Christy runs the pub.


Christy is named in the latest list of 120 tax defaulters published by the Revenue. He settled a tax bill for €96,351 during the final three months of last year.

February’s Offaly Independent reports: River Street project in Clara gets planning go-ahead

An Bord Pleanala has upheld planning permission for a major mixed commercial/residential development at River Street, Clara, Cllr Barry Cowen said last Friday. Offaly County Council had originally granted permission for the project last June. However, this decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanala by Frank Moran and others c/o Green Residents Association, who sought to have this decision overturned. The development planned for River Street in Clara will mean the demolition of four houses, a pub and the surrounding outbuildings to make way for the new venture. It will feature a three storey building over a basement carpark with 190 spaces, ground floor retail area, office space, townhouses and apartments and a public roof terrace. Cllr Cowen stated: “I note from inspector’s report that the Board gave resounding support to Offaly County Council’s decision. With specific regard to the appellant’s reasons for seeking a refusal of permission, the board felt that the applicant had made sufficient alterations and amendments to the scheme previously which, in the main, already addressed various concern of residents.” “Now that the lengthy democratic planning process has concluded, preparations can now commence for the construction of this most welcome development. The short and long term prospects this holds for job creation cannot be overstated.” “This development represents a massive investment in Clara’s economy. I look forward to it re-invigorating our town centre, breeding new life and vitality into the town,” he said. “Its success will, no doubt, encourage others to follow suit and further improve commercial activity. I am particularlly glad that this follows much residential and indeed recent industrial development in the area. Our community and hinterland can look forward to new and exciting services/facilities commensurate to recent growth.” The schemes promoter and applicant, Denis O’Connell endorsed Cllr Cowen’s comments and stated that he too was “now looking forward to next phase of preparation for commencement of construction in the coming months”.

The site

The subject two-acre site on River Street in the centre of town close to Main Street contains two detached bungalows and a single storey public house setback from the established building line of the street. An Bord Pleanala concluded that “overall the current streetscape qualities of the site are poor” and that “the buildings are in poor condition”. They will mostly be replaced at three storeys in three blocks of mixed residential/ commercial units and a basement car park with 190 spaces in an 18m Euro development.

The pub

Jody Corcoran in the Sunday Independent describes the pub as comfortable but relatively modest for a man he deemed elitist, a privileged politician. “Adorning the walls was the paraphernalia of Brian Cowen’s upbringing. An old car registration … a formal looking photo of Ber … The pub itself is dated but comfortable. Inevitably there are photographs of the successful All-Ireland teams from Offaly … an election photograph of Jack Lynch … an incongruous Elvis sign… country ‘n’ western music adding to the honky-tonk feel. There is plenty of pine and formica in evidence”. There was a magnificent and huge thatched edifice on the site until the nineteen sixties. I wonder who created the current incarnation … a kip ready for obliteration.

Clara is a relatively small town, situated in the north of Offaly, with a population of approximately 3500 people. Discouragingly its 2005 Local Area Plan envisages it as a commuter town for Tullamore. Commuting is not yet a negative in Clara.

It is unusual in Offaly as a mainly industrial town, with its history and growth largely influenced by the industries it supported. Its proximity to the Brosna river and the Grand Canal accounted for much of Clara’s early industrial development. Clara was a famous trading town in the early 19th century and was once home to successful distilleries and a brewery. It was most famous for weaving – particularly cotton and linen. It also supported the manufacturing of tobacco, soap, and candles, and a significant flour mills. Clara has some lovely old houses and demesnes. But only one most famous son.

Where will they nail the plaque?

2 Responses to “Cowen home to be demolished”

  1. […] Cowen home to be demolished « […]

  2. Dont mind the plaque,just nail the son of a b*tch to a cross.

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