Roscommon County Council has launched an audacious bid this week to reclaim the westside of Athlone claiming that it has been ignored and neglected for years.
In a clear broadside aimed at Athlone Town Council, members unanmiously passed a motion on Monday last from Independent Cllr Tony Ward, calling on Minister Phil Hogan to extend the Roscommon county boundary back to the Athlone town bridge, the natural county boundary between Westmeath and Roscommon and the provincial boundary of Leinster and Connacht.
Supporting the boundary extension call, Cllr Paddy Kilduff complained that there has been a "total neglect of the westside" and Athlone Town Council has "some cheek to try and get a finger on Monksland" given their neglect of the Connacht side of the town over many years.
Cllr John Keogh pointedly said the "gloves are off in relation to this issue" given the submission by Athlone Town Council to try and extend its jurisdiction right into South Roscommon. He accused Athlone Town Council of "turning a blind eye to business interests on the westside of the town" and said it was now time that the Roscommon local authority looked at taking the natural boundary back.
"It makes perfect sense that the town boundary is moved and the ground comes back in Roscommon," Fine Gael's Ollie Moore also told the meeting, complaining that there was no sense to Athlone's proposal to go out three miles right into Roscommon to take in Monksland.
Pointing to the significant rates base in Monksland, Cllr Moore predicted that it would be next to impossible for Roscommon County Council to provide services with the loss of that contribution and he would propose moving into more territory than Cllr Ward.
He added that in Ballinasloe the Creagh area should also come back into the control of Roscommon County Council at the boundary of the River Suck, a proposal supported by his party colleague Cllr John Naughten.
The area from the Dubarry factory in Creagh into Ballinasloe is currently part of the boundary of Ballinasloe Town Council.
"Certainly the interest of Athlone Town Council is in the commercial rates base in Monksland," was the verdict of Drum's John Naughten, who said he wholeheartedly supported the proposal by Cllr Tony Ward to restore the natural Roscommon boundary, although he acknowledged there has been some investment on the westside in terms of Athlone Castle and the Luan Gallery in the last two years.
However, he did point out that without the investment of Roscommon County Council in Monksland, the area would be in "deep decline".
Raising the matter at Monday's monthly meeting, Cllr Tony Ward from Curraghboy explained that he was prompted to highlight the issue again given what has happened on the westside of Athlone over the last 20 years with an exodus of State companies and businesses to the eastside of town, which raised no outcry from a TD, Senator, Athlone Town Council or Westmeath County Council.
He listed CIE, Eircom, An Post and Department of Social Welfare as examples of State companies, who have all relocated to the eastside of the town in recent times, while names like Athlone Hardware, Lyster's Hardware, Broderick's bakery, Bank of Ireland among others have left the westside retail community.
Walking up Pearse Street, Cllr Tony Ward said it's clear nothing is being done on that side of the town by the local council, IDA or Westmeath County Enterprise Board and instead of trying to move into Monksland, Athlone should reflect on the mess it's made of that side of the town.
"I think there is a great opportunity for Roscommon County Council, the IDA and Roscommon County Enterprise Board, who could be a huge help to the westside," Cllr Ward suggested, saying that previously the town centre was when you crossed the bridge, but it is now in Golden Island.
He said it was hard to believe that less than 40 years Athlone Castle escaped demolition by just one vote by a local authority who wanted to turn it into a car park.
Mayor of Roscommon Cllr Tom Crosby and Cllr Jimmy Coogan from Ballaghadereen said the proposal made a lot of sense and they would support it 100%.