People in Moate and people in Athlone will be voting for different councillors after a bizarre reconfiguration of Westmeath's local government system announced last night.
The Local Electoral Area Boundary Committe's report, published last night, has recommended Westmeath move from having three municipal areas (Athlone/Mullingar-Coole/Mullingar-Kilbeggan) to four.
The restructure, which is being greeted with utter bewilderment within political circles locally, means five councillors will represent Athlone, there will be four councillors for the new Moate electoral area, six for a revised Mullingar area and five for a new Kinnegad electoral area.
There will be no change in the number of county councillors which will remain at its current level of 20.
Currently, there are seven Athlone county councillors, seven representing Mullingar-Coole and six representing Mullingar-Kilbeggan
As part of the newly redrawn areas, Moate, Mount Temple, Tang, Drumraney and Ballymore, all currently in the Athlone area will move to the new Moate area.
Bizarrely, though, the new hotch-potch Moate area stretches from the county border with Offaly on the south across to include Tyrrellspass on the east and up to distant Rathowen on the Longford border.
It means the new smaller Athlone electoral area will lose two councillors, down from 7 to 5 – despite Athlone's much trumpted regional growth centre status and it will have only one more councillor than the new Moate area.
For administration purposes, the boundary committee report recommends that the two areas, Athlone and Moate, be united into an Athlone-Moate municipal district. It also recommends that the two Mullingar and Kinnegad areas be united into a single Mullingar-Kinnegad municipal district.
This means the Athlone civic centre will be responsible for local government functions, such as road maintenance, litter monitoring etc for an area stretching from Baylough to Rathowen to Tyrrellspass.
In Roscommon, no change has been recommended. The county currently has 18 councillors, split evenly with six councillors in each of the three areas, Athlone, Boyle and Roscommon – and that will remain.
The shake up means the Athlone electoral area of Roscommon will have more councillors than the new slimmed down Athlone electoral area of Westmeath.
A shocked Cllr Aengus O'Rourke described the changes as “incomprehensible”.
He said councillors and the local authority were generally working on the assumption that there would be no significant change in Westmeath on the basis that the current structure has been working well, to a large extent.
He said there didn't appear either to be any real demand for change.
He said he went through the report this morning to find the logic behind the changes. “I couldn't find the logic behind the decision making.”
The new areas, as recommended by the committee, can be seen here.
The existing electoral map of Westmeath can be seen here.