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For the attention of Lourda Giles, Athlone Boundary Review, Secretariat, Westmeath Co Council.
Re: Athlone Boundary Review
I object to the proposal to shift any part of County Roscommon into County Westmeath because:
1) Identity – this proposal would affect my identity.
I am proud of my Roscommon links and wish to maintain pride in this identity. What gives authority to any politician or public servant to interfere with my identity in this manner. I do not want the County I identify with weakened. Any such boundary change would also affect the identities of the children who are growing up in this area and identify themselves as Roscommon People.
2) Loss of strength of Co Roscommon.
If Roscommon loses the Area of Interest or any part of it and its population, it will be a weakened County with less bargaining power when bidding for funds. In the future Roscommon would be entitled to less in any process based on population.
The Area of Interest and Monksland/Bealnamullia represents the second largest town in Co Roscommon (after Roscommon Town) and has the potential for further community and industrial growth. The impact of the loss of its second largest town on the remainder of the County would be devastating and leave the County weakened with fewer people and less revenue capacity. What reasons are there for a Government to inflict such a retrograde change upon Co Roscommon.
3) County Roscommon will lose the significant revenues it collected in the Area.
The rents and rates collected by Roscommon Co Council in the affected area will be lost to the County. These comprise a significant proportion of its own independent revenue stream. Any temporary compensation arrangement that might be introduced will be short lived.
Not only will Roscommon be left without the existing revenue streams but it will also lose out on the continued growth potential of the area. There will be no compensation for any such future losses. Ultimately all revenues from the Area will go to the benefit of Co Westmeath along with any revenues from the future growth of Monksland. I consider that this will be a devastating loss to Roscommon County all the more so when one considers that Co Roscommon has invested heavily in the infrastructure and people of the area over the past number of years.
4) Many Sporting and Cultural Organisations will lose out.
Whereas it is noted that the Boundary Committee has stated that ‘The application of any changes to the administrative boundaries by sporting or other cultural bodies would be a matter for the bodies themselves’ – it is considered that this statement is a pre-judgement of the consultation process. Government should not pre-judge a consultation process. I also consider that any proposed change in the County Boundary would significantly affect the viability of and or reduce the effectiveness of
clubs and organisations thus weakening the Social fabric of life in the remainder of County Roscommon.
5) Many Government Services to County Roscommon will lose out.
Allocations for services to Co Roscommon will be diminished. Any future rationalisation of services will threaten the existing services in Monksland such as the Primary Care Unit.
6) Roscommon Co Council has Invested Significantly in the Area.
When I look at what Roscommon Co Council has done for the ‘Area of Interest’ I see that they have provided state of the art water and sewage treatment, new safer roads, children’s play areas, has purchased land in advance for a new national school, provided land for industry, provided a community centre, sports pitches with modern dressing rooms, extended the local cemetery and provided many other day to day requirements for a vibrant community life. Roscommon Co Council has truly implemented the principles of ‘Putting People First’ even before it was adopted as a policy framework
On the contrary when I look at what has happened to the West side of Athlone since it was moved in to County Westmeath I see that that area has not been nurtured or treated well under Westmeath Co Council jurisdiction. Once a thriving part of Athlone Town CSO statistics now show that it is the most deprived area of County Westmeath.
7) Co-operation between Co Roscommon and Co Westmeath.
There is a very high level of co-operation between the two counties at present. This includes the
Rapid Programme, the Emergency & Fire Service, Road Maintenance, Planning and Water Services, Rural Transport. Where is the evidence to show that the existing arrangements are not working or need to be addressed? Where is the evidence to show that an alteration in the Boundary is necessary? Where has such argument been set out in a Government consultative paper for public comment?
If the Minster thinks that service provision needs to be improved why not establish joint working groups of officials between the two authorities on a statutory basis to implement whatever element he considers appropriate. Why does he consider the blunt tool of a County boundary change will achieve the desired outcome?
8) There is a Lack of Democracy in this process.
The process being adopted to assess and ultimately effect this change is not democratic. The
1991 Act vests the final say in this matter with the Minister for the Environment Community & Local Government. Why not have a referendum amongst the affected people and ask them if they wish to be transferred in to County Westmeath? Why has the Minister not at least enacted the provisions of the 2001 Act which would require him to put the matter before both houses of the Oireachtas?
9) Loss of Employment and Economic Performance.
I believe a boundary change will hinder the generation of Employment in the Area. To support
this view just look at what happened to the west side of Athlone since it was taken over by Co
Westmeath in 1899. Connaught Street then the main street of Athlone has since been let run down. The only infrastructure provided has been a largely unsuccessful housing development at the Batteries. Any significant business has been moved and the Army Barracks has been downgraded – all without any fight being made by Westmeath Co Council.
In Monksland, Bealnamullia and Drum area there is an existing thriving Community with many busy social and community active organisations. The Area also has a thriving business Community. These did not happen by accident but have grown through bottom up people driven actions which have been carefully facilitated and nurtured by Roscommon Co Council.
Notwithstanding the discouragement to raising Community Club/Organisation boundary issues contained in the Public Advertisement placed on 1st December 2015 I consider that this is a vital community issue and I object to that attempt to limit my submission in this regard. I beg to differ with your suggestion that such matters are for the organisations alone. A boundary change will have significant effects on many clubs and organisations and would have the potential to destroy the dynamics and feeling of ownership over such organisations.
11) Strengths of Existing Arrangement.
The first evidence of the strength of the existing arrangement is to cite the thriving local social and business communities in Monksland, Bealnamullia and Drum. Then compare this with the west side of Athlone which when examined under CSO deprivation indices has not thrived under Westmeath administration.
Roscommon Co Council has ensured that the area could develop and thrive through the provision of services and by empowering the Local community to take actions on its own behalf and grow to become the second largest town in the County.
Senator Terry Leyden, Castlecoote, Roscommon