Tonight’s Save Roscommon Meeting attracted a crowd of in excess of 1,500 people to the Athlone Springs Hotel, Monksland.
Attendees came from far and wide and representatives of the major political, social and sporting groups in the county addressed the crowd.
Among them was local County Councillor, and Chair of the Save Roscommon group, Tony Ward who called on the people of the county to made submissions to the review group via www.athloneboundaryreview.ie or via the post (or hand delivery) to Athlone Boundary Review, Áras An Chontae Mount Street, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, N91 FH4N. It hoped that 10,000 – 15,000 submissions would be put forward by the people of the county and it was noted that 12,000 submissions were made as part of the review of the Waterford / Kilkenny boundary.
Former Roscommon County Council Manager and Kiltoom resident John Tiernan spoke strongly on the issue and concluded by saying “This is nothing less than a revenue and population hijack. Of course improve Athlone, but not at our expense,”
Chairman of Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation John Murphy spoke passionately about his “Roscommon DNA” . He said “I’m a proud Roscommon man. I don’t want to be from another county, if I did I would have moved”. He added that “This land annexation must be stopped at all cost” before describing the west (Connacht) side of Athlone; an area previously part of Roscommon, is the most deprived areas in Westmeath. “Is that what we want for Monksland and Bogganfin? Our government is not being democratic about the process and is rail-roading the community; It is against the spirit of national and European legislation”.
Dr. John Killeen, Chair of the Saolta Hospital Group, said that Roscommon County Council had to “go it alone” in the development of the industrial area of Monksland, getting little or no help from anyone. He urged the people of the county to make a submission by January 27th.
Dr. Kevin Doran, Bishop of Elphin Diocese said “It’s geographical nonsense to say Westmeath is in Connaught. If the border is changed what impact will that have for Roscommon’s European status as a border region?” the Bishop asked. “I see no reason why Roscommon should become part of Westmeath.”
Roscommon GAA Chairperson Seamus Sweeney told the meeting that “Roscommon is united behind this campaign – there are people from every GAA club Roscommon here tonight – from Arigna to Clonown, from Gorthaganny to Tarmonbarry, we are Roscommon! These are our colours – not maroon and white.”
Local Businessman John Mee of Sidero said “Business people are opposed to the change – we will make a submission as a group of industrialists – I’m privileged and proud to run a business in south Roscommon – one word for Minister Kelly – don’t rise a Rossie!!”
The meeting also heard that any potential boundary move could take place as early as April and former County Manager John Tiernan advised attendees that the 1991 Local Government Act allows the Minister to act, whatever the results of the committee’s report. “There is no provision to appeal. The courts are the only recourse.”
Denis Naughten called on the people of the county to “block the email and block the post at Westmeath County Council by the number of our submissions”. He also promised not to support any incoming government who attempted to change the county boundary.
An interesting footnote to proceedings was a letter by Longford-Westmeath TD Robert Troy (Fianna Fáil) stating that he does not want to see any boundary move.
Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice asks everyone – children and adults – to make submissions.
Labour Senator John Kelly said that if elected to the Dáil he will vote against the Government, if a decision is made to change the boundary. “If you don’t elect a government TD, you have no hope.” He subsequently told the audience, to loud boos.
Chairperson of the Athlone Municipal District, Fianna Fáil Councillor, Ivan Connaughton also encouraged people to make submissions saying “The future is in your hands”. He also asked for the General Election Candidates to make their position on the issue known.
Local Fianna Fáil Councillor John Keogh warned that this move (the potential boundary change) contravenes the government’s own development plans. He also added that “the local property tax will inevitably be raised” and concluded by saying that “If we have to march on the bridge of Athlone, we will march on the bridge of Athlone”
Sinn Fein Candidate for the upcoming General Election Claire Kerrane called on the local media to assist people in making their submissions.
Fine Gael Candidate and current County Councillor Maura Hopkins pledged her support to maintain the county’s boundaries, adding “I will be working very hard in your behalf.”
Fianna Fáil Candidate and current County Councillor Eugene Murphy says that the current consultation process is undemocratic. He also pledged that he will not support any change in the county’s boundaries.
Roscommon IFA Chairperson John Hanley pledged to support the Save Roscommon Campaign
There was also a wide range of calls from the floor throughout the evening calling on the Government to return control of the west side of Athlone to Roscommon County Council.
Chairperson Tony Ward brought the Save Roscommon Meeting to a close and invited Johnny Johnston to perform his stirring rendition of the Roscommon anthem “Land of the O’Connor”
Once again you are encouraged to visit www.athloneboundaryreview.ie to find out more about how you can make a submission.