Responding to a plea from Michael Fitzmaurice TD to halt the Athlone Boundary Review the Taoiseach claimed that some people in the county were “scaremongering” and ” would do well not to make comments as they have been doing, including that all the GAA clubs will be transferred to Westmeath, that 7,500 people will be moved to Westmeath and that all of the rates and so on will be sent to Westmeath”.
He went on to say “One could reflect on this in a different way and say there was a divide before, east and west of the Shannon. One could examine Athlone as being a municipal district, supported by Westmeath and Roscommon; or one could examine Athlone as being part of Roscommon. The issue being examined is Monksland being part of Westmeath. It is not a binding finding and I would not be too concerned about it from that point of view.”
Deputy Fitzmaurice reminded the Taoiseach that the previous extension of the boundary by the then (British) Government had resulted in West Athlon being neglected “There is poverty in that area because of the way Westmeath looked after it” and added “I am worried as to what will happen down the road”.
The Taoiseach reiterated that the findings of the Review were not binding. He also acknowledged that Roscommon had “suffered much in recent years. Many elements of that were due to a lack of decisiveness about what actually needed to be done in Roscommon in terms of the major pieces of infrastructure, road routes and so on. Monksland is a developed and thriving area in terms of investment and the creation of jobs. I agree with the Deputy that people would be very upset were it to be shifted administratively to another district. I am very much a supporter of developing the county of Roscommon as an entity. Why would I not be? That is my strong belief. This report is not binding; it is an administrative report and will have to be dealt with politically afterwards. I will answer the Deputy’s question in the affirmative by saying that if I have anything to do with it, that is my belief.”
The debate concluded and the people of the county now await the outcome of the Athlone Boundary Review Report.