Soup kitchen operator Oliver Williams says that before he opened a soup kitchen in Ennis, Co Clare, he was warned by a woman from Co Galway that she didn’t want any “blacks, winos, or Travellers.” Her comment were in response to the soup kitchen Williams opened in Ennis on September 2, 2013.
Williams’ soup kitchen in Ennis is the seventh of a network that includes kitchens in Galway, Roscommon, Sligo, and Tuam. The kitchen in Ennis serves 2,500 meals weekly to the needy.
Residents from St Flannan’s Terrace area of Ennis visited Williams’ soup kitchen on September 2 to voice their disapproval of his choice of location. The Irish Examiner quoted that one said to Williams, “This is a private residential area. We are a very tight community here; we are extremely concerned at what you are doing.” Another said, “If you want to do a good deed, fair play to you, but we would really, really, appreciate if you would look at an alternative site.” The residents said that the woman from Co Galway did not speak on their behalf.
Williams has argued that some of the residents’ concerns are unfounded, arguing that commercial activity is not allowed on the site.
Local authorities told residents that the soup kitchen was unauthorized and an official letter would be sent to Williams.
Residents have started a petition and attended a recent town council meeting in large numbers. Town manager Ger Dollard said that the soup kitchen was unauthorized under the planning acts and the council will take measures to see that the soup kitchen activity on sites ends.
There is debate on whether Ennis needs a soup kitchen. Cllr Paul O’Shea stated that Ennis needs one, but the civic hall could be used. Cllr Tommy Brennan disagrees, having said, “I am totally against a soup kitchen in the town of Ennis. It is not needed. We have organisations in Ennis that provide for the elderly and those that need feeding.”
Cllr Johnny Flynn states, “The whole idea that a plan like this would be uncontrolled and unregulated, no matter how important it is for the recipients, is not acceptable.”