I have made the following submission for consideration by the Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee.
(I)That the administrative area of County Roscommon remain intact, and include the second biggest town in County Roscommon; Monksland.
There has been some concern that the County Roscommon town of Monksland, which adjoins the town of Athlone, would be subsumed into County Westmeath. This would be a retrograde step, not only undermining the county and regional boundaries but also many agency and governmental administrative structures. It would also run contrary to the Putting People First document which clearly states on page 59 that, “the district should incorporate the relevant hinterland of each town, subject to the constraints imposed by County boundaries.”
(II)That the County of Roscommon be divided into 3 municipal districts of 6 members each focused around the towns of a) Monksland; b) Roscommon; c) Ballaghaderreen, Boyle, and Castlerea.
The municipal district of Monksland would fulfil an aspect of the Putting People First document which states that the proposed municipalities should be designed “taking particular account of large urban centres which do not currently enjoy municipal status.”
Not only is Monksland the second biggest town in County Roscommon, but it is also the fastest growing town in the midlands. As a result, it is projected to be the biggest town in County Roscommon by the time of the next census. Indeed, if Monksland were not given municipal status now, it would make the proposed municipal structure completely obsolete by the time the inaugural members of the district seek re-election.
This municipal area should be made up of the current local electoral area of Athlone, County Roscommon; the Roscommon electoral area south of Roscommon Town; and the Strokestown electoral area D.E.D.s which adjoin Lough Ree. This would mean that for planning, administrative tourism, and promotional perspective all of County Roscommon adjoining Lough Ree would be in the same municipal district.
In geographic terms this would include everything south of a line from Athleague in the west, to Cloontuskert in the east of County Roscommon, excluding Roscommon rural D.E.D.
Roscommon Town as the principal town in County Roscommon would be the focal point of the second municipal district. This would be made up of the remaining parts of the existing local electoral areas of Roscommon and Strokestown along with the D.E.D.s in the Castlerea local electoral area which lie south and east of the Castlereagh D.E.D.
In geographic terms this district would include everything south of a line from Ballymoe County Galway in the west, via Elphin to Roosky in the east of County Roscommon (excluding the municipal district of Monksland).
The final municipal district would be made up of the remaining part of the Castlerea electoral area and the existing Boyle electoral area and include the towns of Boyle, Ballaghaderreen, and Castlerea. This would keep the existing electoral area boundaries intact insofar as possible and would tie in with the recent alignment by the Garda authorities which have amalgamated the old Garda districts of Boyle and Castlerea, which includes the town of Ballaghaderreen.
(III) The Monksland municipal district would retain responsibility for all its functions.
There is a concern that the town of Monksland would have its functions provided through a service level agreement with the town of Athlone.
Such an agreement would lead to a bizarre situation where by the office of the Monksland municipal district would not be directly responsible for the sweeping of the footpath outside its own door.
While such an arrangement may be desirable in some parts of the country, it would not work in this situation because of the point above, and:
a. Monksland is physically divided from the town of Athlone by the Athlone Relief Road and M6 Motorway.
b. Monksland is a self-sustaining town with its own hotel, retail area, and effective Main Street. It has its own health services, schools both primary and post primary, and existing local authority administrative offices. Monksland is not reliant on Athlone for any of its services as it has its own water supply, public sewer, and industrial land bank.
It must be remembered that Monksland is unique in that it is only one of two municipal environs in the country which cross a provincial boundary; but it is the only one with a self-sustaining town structure which is physically separated from the adjoining town.
In fact, it would make far greater sense to give the Monksland municipal district authority for the functions of the existing Athlone town council services in the province of Connacht, on the western side of Athlone. This would tie in not only with the provincial boundary, but also the parish and diocesan boundaries.
Instead of the Connacht side of Athlone becoming the” forgotten town” within a town, it would become an integral part of the performance of the service delivery function of the Monksland Municipal District. Monksland can not only easily provide for existing services on behalf of the proposed Athlone Municipal District, but it has the additional capacity in its water and waste water facilities to cater for the additional demands that would be placed upon it, something which is not presently available to the proposed Athlone Municipal District.
Such a functional transfer would have the added benefit of releasing valuable capacity within the existing Athlone town waste water system, which is non-existent at present, and as a result has the potential to impede industrial development in the Leinster Town.
Such an alignment would also be hugely beneficial from a tourism perspective as the main water sports recreational area, internationally recognised golf course and hotel, Caravan Park and marina are located within the proposed Monksland municipal district at Hodson Bay. There are also a number of further significant tourism related capital developments in the pipeline for the Hodson Bay area. However, as the Hodson Bay amenity is well outside the potential hinterland of Athlone Town, it is only the Monksland Municipal District that could ensure that these facilities complemented by the recently developed Luan Art Gallery and redeveloped tourism attraction at Athlone Castle, which in turn could become a focal point for tourism development in the region.
It is also important to point out that Roscommon County Council have already made specific provision in its County Development Plan for the construction of a shoreline path along the western edge of Lough Ree and the River Shannon to further promote the use of the area for tourism and recreational purposes . This will provide a linkage from the Hodson Bay amenity area to Athlone Town to the south.
But not only would the provision of functional control of the Connacht town of Athlone to the municipal district of Monksland ensure that such a project is delivered, it would allow for the development of the walkway from the internationally unique Shannon Callows south of Athlone in County Roscommon via the Great Meadow, Special Area of Conservation along the canal bank north to Hodson Bay and Lough Ree with a spur back to the bridge of Athlone and the Luan Art Gallery and the Athlone Castle.
It may also be possible to avail of LEADER type rural development funding for such a project, the development of which would of course be subject to the consent of local landowners and the National Parks & Wildlife Service. It should be noted that this type of funding is not available to any part of the present town council area of Athlone.
Finally, Roscommon County Council has already made provision within its development plan for a substantial 17 acre public park adjoining Monksland, which is close to the Connacht section of Athlone Town, an area which is currently lacking in such a valuable amenity . With functional responsibility for this adjoining town hinterland, Monksland Municipal District could work in cooperation with Athlone Municipal District to secure its full development.
I hope that consideration can be given to my proposals for realignment which I believe make administrative sense, improve efficiency and accountability, reduce cost, and acknowledge the department’s proposals on electoral representation.
Denis Naughten TD