Boundary change should not affect religious or sporting bodies - Council

TrĂ­ona Doherty

Westmeath County Council says it is up to religious and sporting bodies to organise themselves "whatever way they deem appropriate" and that any boundary change in the Athlone area is an administrative matter.

The council's official submission to the Boundary Review Committee met with unanimous approval at Monday's meeting of Westmeath County Council. While the council is of the view that the boundary of the Athlone Municipal District should be extended into Roscommon, they say it is merely an "administrative boundary".

This comes in the wake of huge public opposition across County Roscommon to the proposed boundary change which would see a section of Roscommon, including Monksland, Bealnamulla, Drum, and Kiltoom, become part of Westmeath.

The council argues that religious and sporting bodies in the Athlone area have already established boundaries for their own purposes which are not the same as local government boundaries.

For example, the river Shannon is currently the diocesan boundary between the dioceses of Ardagh & Clonmacnois and Elphin; however the church of Ss Peter and Paul, while located west of the Shannon and in the Elphin Diocese, is in the section of Athlone that is part of County Westmeath.

In addition, two sporting clubs, Athlone Hockey Club and Buccaneers Rugby Club are both based on the east side of the river Shannon but compete in the Connacht provincial leagues. The submission also points out a number of instances nationally where the GAA has decided on boundaries which do not coincide with local government boundaries, for example Ballaghaderreen, located in County Roscommon, play in Mayo GAA.

"Clearly, it is a matter for such bodies to organise themselves whatever way they deem appropriate," argues the submission.

However the council says it regrets that the Boundary Review has given rise to so much public concern.

"We regret that the Boundary Review has given rise to so much concern in the Roscommon area, and we are disappointed that the Boundary Review process has not included more meaningful engagement with the public, such as through a plebiscite [public vote], to explain that the Review concerns local government administration only and not any other matter such as sporting, religious, or other entities to which people may be aligned."

They argue that an extension of the boundary would allow the Athlone Municipal District to plan for the orderly expansion of Athlone in an integrated way.

“A boundary change would simply recognise the reality that all the people who reside in the built-up areas of Athlone live in the town and as such, should be represented and have a voice within Athlone and should be able to avail of local government services through a single entity.”

The deadline for public submissions on the boundary review was 5pm yesterday (Wednesday ). According to the Save Roscommon group, over 2,400 people have used a link for electronic submissions, while thousands more have signed hard copies which were hand-delivered to The County Buildings in Mullingar yesterday. All submissions will be available to view at www.athloneboundaryreview.ie

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