O'Rourke slams Government for its 'stark sidelining' of Athlone

Mayor of Athlone/Moate Municipal District Cllr Aengus O'Rourke (pictured) has slammed the new coalition government for what he said was its decision to “finally consign Athlone to a five-year term without a resident voice at a national level.”

He described Saturday as “a dark day” for the town after the three-party government opted to “sideline Athlone in a stark and regrettable way”.

After the general election in February and the Seanad elections in March, Athlone was left without a resident political representative in the Oireachtas.

The Fianna Fail councillor and former by-election candidate said the three parties has passed up eleven opportunities to remedy that situation by selecting a senator from Athlone, referring to the eleven appointees made by the Taoiseach and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin on behalf of the coalition government on Saturday.

As a result, he said, Athlone was the largest urban provincial town in Ireland not to have a resident voice of any kind in the corridors of power.

“Willing and able candidates was certainly not the issue, there are very capable and strong people in Athlone from all three parties who would have served Athlone and the country extremely well if given the opportunity.

“You would have to wonder if Athlone's status as a Regional Growth Centre is being taken seriously by the powers that be, time will tell.”

Questioned by the Westmeath Independent as to whether he felt personally let down that he had not been considered for a Seanad position, the Mayor said he believed there were a number of very capable individuals in each of the three parties.

“One of the three parties should have seen the gap. The gap is so pronounced.”

“I would have thought The Green Party would have considered Louise Heavin,” he said.

Asked if this had damaged his confidence in his own party leader and in the Government, he said this was not the case.

“I genuinely believe there is the potential for this Government to be a very good one.”

However, he explained: “I don't think I would be doing my job as mayor if I didn't speak out and express my frustration.”

“If we don't have people in the corridors of power, we are at a distinct disadvantage,” he argued, pointing out that the delivery record of people like Minister of State Kevin 'Boxer' Moran and Ministers Mary O'Rourke and Paddy Cooney had shown the value of having political representation from Athlone at a high-Government level.

He said her had no doubt that TDs from the county would do a good job for Athlone, including his party colleague Robert Troy.

However, he pointed out they were not from Athlone or residents of Athlone.

He said he believed Deputy Troy should not only be made a Minister of State this week but given a strong ministry.

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