Any plans to open a “Twist” soup kitchen in Limerick could be put on hold due to controversy over the newest outlet in Ennis, Co. Clare.
Last week, Mr Oliver Williams, who operates a network of soup kitchens around the country, opened up the Twist soup kitchen at St Flannan’s Terrace, Clonroad Beg, Ennis and was confronted by local residents angry at the lack of consultation by Mr Williams before opening up the kitchen.
Now the Ennis Town Council has told him that his soup kitchen is unauthorised as it does not have proper planning permission and that he could face a six-month prison term or a large fine if convicted of operating an unauthorised soup kitchen.
The council has told Mr Williams that if he is convicted in the courts of carrying out the unauthorised development, he faces a prison term up to six months or a fine up to €12,697.
Williams opened his first soup kitchen in Galway City in June of last year where he has been providing free meals for anyone in need.
Plans to add Limerick to the portfolio have been on the cards since then and have been welcomed by local people.
Fianna Fáil TD for Limerick City, Willie O’Dea welcomed the news.
“There is a certain amount of ‘working poor’ in the City, on low incomes. These people are below the internationally accepted poverty line, and are finding the going extremely tough.
“Limerick is the unemployment black spot of the country. The rate of unemployment in the City is the highest according to the latest CSO figures,” he added.
Fine Gael Councillor, Maria Byrne noted that there already was a mobile soup kitchen run voluntarily in the City along with many other services.
She praised these services for catering for the City’s homeless and needy. However, she said she would not hesitate to support any new facility if Williams was to go ahead with his plans.
“People who, in the past were giving to charities are now the ones who are coming looking for help,” she said.
Cllr Byrne also called on local businesses to get behind such an initiative if it goes ahead saying that it would be a very positive image to transmit.
However, before that can happen now in Limerick, Williams has got to sort out his problems in Ennis.
“I don’t wish to upset anyone and I will be making a decision next week as to whether to seek planning permission for the kitchen or to seek an alternative site.”
The Athenry native said he thought the day would soon come when we would see soup kitchens in every large town in Ireland.
He already operates soup kitchens at Roscommon, Galway city, Sligo, Loughrea, Athlone and Tuam and plans to open three more at Drogheda, Kildare and Mullingar.
Twist does not receive any Government funding and is totally reliant on donations and the goodwill of local people and businesses.
It not only caters just for homeless people, it also welcomes single parents and those who have lost their jobs, or anyone who is in need, hungry or just wants to have a chat with a friendly face.