STRONGLY CRITICISE REGIONAL PLANNING GUIDELINES
A joint submission
from three Midland Chambers of Commerce, including Athlone, has
strongly criticised the draft Regional Planning Guidelines, recently
published by the Midland Regional Authority. Athlone, Mullingar
and Tullamore Chambers said the guidelines had dramatically shifted
away from the objectives of the National Spatial Strategy, and would
make only a negligible impact on development in the region in its
three Chambers are highly critical of the decision by the MRA to
base its Regional Planning Guidelines (RPGs) around the "five principal
towns" of the Midlands Region.
adds Longford and Portlaoise to the linked gateway for major development
identified by the National Spatial Strategy, which originally only
included Athlone, Mullingar and Tullamore.
According to the
Chambers "the Midlands Gateway has been diluted considerably in
the draft RPGs."
They called on the
MRA, which is made up Midlands County Councils, to change the emphasis
in the guidelines, saying "failure to do so will just reinforce
the perception in the business community of the powerlessness of
local and regional government to grasp the nettle and actually drive
the region's growth."
The Chambers say
the gateway outlined in the NSS is not referred to in any of the
key sections of the draft guidelines.
"All of the substantive
sections are addressed in the context of the 5 principal towns,
a concept that does not exist in the National Spatial Strategy,
and has never arisen before."
The Chambers said
they believed this was at variance with the guidelines given to
planners by the Minister for the Environment.
They said that while
Longford and Portlaoise had important contributions to make to development,
the two towns were fundamentally outside the gateway, and were never
intended to be primary drivers in the Midlands.
"With a span of
70 miles between the furthest points of the 5 towns, the concept
of a gateway clustering development to act as a driver in the region
is, in the opinion of the business community, not possible."
Problems in getting
funding to implement some of the aims of the NSS, the Chambers said,
would be exacerbated by adding more towns to the competition for
"Any central funding
or other governmental support will be dissipated to such an extent
as to make a negligible impact on the region," they said.
The Chambers also
accused the MRA of ignoring social, heritage and cultural issues
in the guidelines. In particular, they said issues such as poverty,
illiteracy, racial integration and one off housing had not been
RULES OUT FF VOTING PACT IN EAST GALWAY
In a move which
surprised some political observers, Tanaiste and Progressive Democrat
leader Mary Harney TD has ruled out any voting pact between her
party and Fianna Fail in the forthcoming local elections in East
Launching her party's
local election campaign in Ballygar, Ms. Harney said the PDs would
not seek voting transfers for Fianna Fail in East Galway.
The decision not
to seek transfers for the party's national Government partners is
reported to have annoyed some local members of Fianna Fail.
The two parties
successfully pursued a voting transfer agreement in the last general
election in 2002.
Ms. Harney told
the gathering in Ballygar that she was confident the party could
take two new seats in rural areas of Galway County Council, as well
as retaining their membership on Tuam Town Council.
She also spoke of
her long standing connections with the Ballygar area, pointing out
that both her parents had come from nearby Ahascragh.
Ms. Harney also
repeated pledges to continue to push for new industry in the East
Galway area during the lifetime of the present Government.
A number of Fianna
Fail supporters who attended the gathering in Ballygar said they
were dismayed at the Tanaiste's announcement of a go it alone policy.
Some claimed to have walked out of the meeting.
One senior Fianna
Fail source said he believed the Tanaiste's announcement could lead
to an increase in support for opposition parties in the local elections.
He suggested it
might signal growing unrest at national level within the Coalition.
FACE MAY DAY SHOWDOWN IN CORK
High flying Buccaneers
faced an All Ireland Rugby League semi final in Cork on Saturday,
May 1st, in a bid to contest the League Final for the very first
This is the third
time Buccs have reached the AIL's semi finals in the amalgamated
club's short history. Buccaneers reached the semi final thanks to
a 9-3 away victory in their final League fixture against Dungannon.
CALLS FOR REOPENING OF ATHLONE VETERINARY LAB
Fine Gael East Galway
Deputy Paul Connaughton has hit out at the Department of Agriculture
over the delay in reopening the Regional Veterinary Laboratory in
said the Lab, which catered for farmers in the West and Midlands,
had been closed last year to allow for major upgrading and provision
of new facilities.
He said the closure
of the facilities had left farmers in the region without any post-mortem
services for dead animals.
said some local farmers now had to travel up to 100 miles to Sligo,
to avail of post-mortem services there.
He added that the
Minister for Agriculture had promised last year that the new veterinary
lab in Athlone would be opened in the near future, but there was
no sign of any such opening yet.
called on the Minister to end the frustration for farmers and open
the facility immediately.
CALLS ON GAA TO ALLOW RUGBY AND SOCCER AT CROKE PARK
At the monthly meeting
of Athlone Town Council, Cllr Mark Cooney called on the GAA to allow
rugby and soccer matches to be played at Croke Park, particularly
during the period when Lansdowne Road was under reconstruction.
Cllr Cooney said
that while Lansdowne was being reconstructed, there would be no
suitable venue for major international soccer and rugby matches,
other than Croke Park.
He said that while
the GAA was entitled to make up its own mind on the issue, whatever
historical reasons had existed for the ban were surely in the past
"It [Croke Park]
has the facilities, they can allow a Michael Jackson concert, so
why not a rugby or soccer international?"
Cllr Cooney said
there was also an economic issue. If Ireland had been forced to
play their recent Triple Crown match in Cardiff because of the unavailability
of any suitable venue in Ireland, all the Irish and Scottish supporters
would have travelled to Cardiff, and the economy of Wales would
have received a boost as a result.
Cllr Breffni Rowan
agreed, saying he had stood in some of the finest stadiums in the
world, including Yankee Stadium, the Millennium and Wembley, and
"Croke Park is as good, if not better, than any. "It's so sad that
such a magnificent edifice is not being shown to the rest of the
Cllr John Butler
said he hoped the GAA could step above the controversy in the interests
He said Cllr Cooney's
motion should be circulated to other Councils around the country.
Cllr Frankie Keena
said the GAA could generate a phenomenal amount of revenue for itself
by opening Croke Park to other sports.
However, Cllr Egbert
"I'm a member of
Buccaneers. I know what people are saying, but the GAA is in control
of its own destiny. I don't think we should put pressure on them."
Cllr Moran said
that while he would love to see every sports ground opened up, things
didn't work that way.
up their training facilities, but we don't let soccer teams play
there because we've our own matches. There's plenty of good pitches."
Cllr Austin Berry,
revealing that he had played hurling at one time, said he didn't
have much hope that the GAA would heed the calls.
One former President
of the GAA had been quoted as saying he couldn't see the change
happening, because of the views of the people who held "control."
Cllr Kieran Molloy
said the current GAA President appeared to be in favour of opening
Croke Park. He said it was hard to know what the grassroots feeling
was, but he felt finance would dictate the issue.
"I believe the GAA
will come under pressure to maintain Croke Park. This could be one
avenue of revenue for them."
Mayor Kevin Moran
said he also supported the calls. He had travelled to a number of
stadiums in England, and it was "lovely to see a stadium full to
He said the numbers
which would attend international matches at Croke Park would generate
a tremendous atmosphere.
PATRICK'S DAY AWARD WINNERS CONGRATULATED
The St Patrick's
Day Parade committee hosted a special Awards Ceremony in the Shamrock
Lodge Hotel to acknowledge and congratulate participants in this
year's parade for their time, effort and originality.
of the Parade Committee, Linda Jo Quinn of ACT, welcomed the crowd
and acknowledged that there had been some doubt as to whether this
year's parade would go ahead. However, she said, Mayor Kevin Boxer
Moran had rallied the troops, and they had been able to get the
parade off the ground in a short space of time.
She thanked the
Mayor for his hard work, and also thanked all the Committee members
for their support.
"As you will appreciate,"
she said, "a lot of hard work went into organising the parade and
we learned a lot of new skills in the process."
Linda Jo Quinn praised
the participants for their support and commitment to the St Patrick's
Day Parade, and stressed that the event would not have been a success
without the various groups who took part.
Over forty groups
entertained the crowds for a little over an hour, and credit is
due to the many voluntary, community groups leaders and parents
who coordinated the youth of Athlone in putting on such a fine performance.
Plans are already
under way for 2005, and the committee hope to expand the event to
include more community entries and marching bands, not only from
Ireland, but possibly Europe and the US.
Mayor Moran also
thanked the many volunteers who made the parade possible.
"It is very easy
for onlookers to praise or criticise an event, but without the assistance
of volunteers on the ground, these events would never take place,
and they are the true heroes of the day," he said.
He also called on
all the Youth Group leaders of Athlone to participate in the 2005
Special thanks went
to sponsors who contributed in some way or another to the parade,
with special mention to Athlone Town Council, who gave 2000 euro,
and Westmeath County Council, who gave 1000 euro.
Thanks were also
extended to the outdoor staff of Athlone Town Council, Town Engineer
Alan Kelly, Department of Defence, the Gardai, Civil Defence, ACT,
the Adjudicators and the Stewards.
Prizes were presented
to the overall 2002 winner and all the winners of prizes from the
2003 and 2004 parades.
Winners For St Patrick's
Day Parade 2004:
Best Overall Entry
- Tonnta, Best Community Entry - Grace Conway, Best Voluntary Entry
- New Horizons, Best Commercial Entry - Tonnta, Best Youth Entry
- Summerhill College, Award for Originality - Summerhill College,
Best Effort Award - Lakeside Marina.
Winners of Treasure
Hunt 2004: 1st The Keane family, 2nd The Trench family, 3rd The
Winners of Pre-Parade
Race 2004: 1st Anthony Richard, 2nd Mark Murphy.
Winner of Pre-Parade
Race 2004: 1st Catriona Dalton.
Best Window Display
2004: Elliotts Opticians.
Winners for the
St Patrick's Day Parade 2003
Overall - Tonnta,
Most Creative - Tonnta, Local Interest - Drum Foroige, Best Sports
- Southern Gaels, Best Youth - The Girl Guides, Best Marching -
The Majorettes, Best Commercial - Brendan Doyle, Best Community
- After Schools, Best Voluntary - Youth Project, Best School Entry
- Coosan N.S., Adjudicator's Award - After Schools.
Winner of St Patrick's
Day Parade 2002: Overall - New Horizons.
Thanks were also
extended to Fr. Patsy McDermott for coordinating the Treasdure Hunt
and the volunteers who helped with the stewarding.
Thanks also went
to Athlone Community Taksforce for the provision of administration
and staff to coordinate the Parade.