By Geraldine Grennan
As we all know, The job of a local authority representative places great demands on one's time, but could it be possible that every single one of the 13 Councillors from the Mullingar District were too busy to attend the Westmeath County Council Cathaoirleach's Christmas dinner, which this year was held in Athlone.
That is the question which must be perplexing Council Cathaoirleach, John Dolan, ever since he hosted the traditional annual dinner in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel in Athlone on December 17 last.
As he looked around at the empty chairs he must have been scratching his head and wondering what on earth did he do wrong during the year to warrant such an alarming number of “no shows.”
Possibly, the new drink/driving laws may have had a bearing on the decision of some members from the Mullingar District to head home to the comfort of their own sittingrooms rather than run the risk of being stopped by An Garda Siochana with a small sherry on board, but could it have been the reason why they all stayed away?
As former Council Chairman, Frank McDermott put it succinctly when asked to explain his absence “if I went to the dinner and had a drink i'd have to stay the night in Athlone.” Cllr McDermott, who has been a Fine Gael member of Westmeath County Council and a former Chairman, lives 50 miles from Athlone, beside the village of Fore in North Westmeath and says “to tell you the truth, I would get to Dublin a lot quicker than I would get to Athlone.”
Another Councillor from the Mullingar District who lives over 50 miles from Athlone is Cllr Paddy Hill, who lives in Coole, also in North Westmeath.
However, what is even more perplexing for the Council Chairman is that neither Cllr McDermott or Cllr Hill (or their eleven other colleagues from the Mullingar District) actually had to drive to Athlone on the day of the Chairman's dinner – they were already there for a full meeting of Westmeath County Council which took place in the Athlone Civic offices prior to the annual Christmas get-together!