It was a case of pastures familiar at the monthly Municipal District Chamber meeting on Monday as Cllr. Frankie Keena returned to the mayoral seat he vacated at the end of his initial term in 2014.
Cllr. Keena received his chain of office from outgoing Mayor, Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke, as the first citizen commences his year long reign ahead of the local elections due to take place in May of next year.
In what is a role reversal, Cllr. O’Rourke will serve as Vice Mayor for the coming year.
Addressing the Chamber, Cllr. Keena stated that it was an ‘honour to be elected Mayor of Athlone for the forthcoming year.’
Having grown up in Garrycastle, the Mayor noted that he had ‘witnessed Athlone transitioning from a quiet rural provincial town with a small population base to one that now enjoys a population of approximately 25k people within a three km radius.’
Adding that Athlone had become a ‘vibrant, progressive town’, Cllr. Keena welcomed the fact that Athlone has been chosen as a Regional Growth Centre within the NPF 2040.
‘As Mayor I will be to the forefront in leading this district to identify key public infrastructural projects that will drive further economic development in this area. In doing this I will be looking for closer working collaboration between IDA Ireland and this Municipal District. We need to be briefed on an ongoing basis on what is required from our end to attract further industries to this region’, he told the Chamber.
Noting that the current local housing crisis was a major issue, Cllr. Keena highlighted that a ‘lack of housing is a major problem within the district - houses need to be built. I want to see machinery on site in Arcadia and also urgent progress on the Lisseywollen South area. It is so frustrating with the slow pace on building houses, while we have numerous people on the housing list and in emergency accommodation.’
Concluding his opening speech as Mayor, Cllr. Keena also noted the need to further enhance Athlone as a tourist destination to attract an international audience and commended the Defence Forces for their ongoing positive relationship with the Council. Acknowledging his fellow elected representatives, he said that as a ‘team, we all work together for the benefit of Athlone.’