Emotional scenes as Athlone’s Dolan elected Westmeath’s first citizen

A year after a cardiac arrest almost claimed his life, emotions of a contrasting nature were to the fore for Athlone Municipal District councillor, John Dolan, as he was unanimously chosen by his elected representative peers to become Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council.

In what were emotional scenes at County Buildings in Mullingar, the Fine Gael councillor’s nomination and selection as Cathaoirleach was warmly received by his political colleagues who awarded the Fardrum resident a standing ovation upon the announcement to the council chamber.

Having spent numerous weeks in a coma following his health scare, Cllr. Dolan is almost at full health and his return to the local political environment is most welcome.

It was a case of Athlone on the double at the County Council AGM, with Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke appointed Leas-Cathaoirleach for the coming year.

Upon receiving his chain of office from outgoing councillor John Shaw, Cllr. Dolan noted the challenges that are ahead under his Cathaoirleach reign.

‘Going forward as ‘Team Westmeath’, we have some challenges. We have to get serious on housing provision. There is money being allocated by the Government towards housing but red tape and a slow system are hampering progress. We have to encourage more private developers to start building again.

Noting that great tourism opportunities were now in view, the Cathaoirleach added that the Council should embrace the ‘Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands’ brand.

‘I propose, in consultation with our tourism officer, that we engage with the local industry and possibly host an event with existing and potential relevant providers with the aim of boosting tourism in our county,’ Cllr. Dolan stated.

Referencing Athlone as a regional hub in the ‘Ireland 2040’ plan, Cllr. Dolan highlighted that this was a ‘major development not just for Athlone, but for the whole county.’

It is important that we identify and discuss what our priorities are and what opportunities exist - if we fail to plan, we plan to fail,’ the Fine Gael councillor said.

Concluding, the Cathaoirleach highlighted the support he received, and continues to do so, from his family, friends and political colleagues.

‘When I attended last year’s AGM, little did I think that the following year would be as eventful. I want to thank each one of you for your good wishes and support to myself and my family during my illness and since my return to my duties. Your kindness is deeply appreciated,’ Cllr. Dolan noted.

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