Talks scheduled regarding Railway Field purchase

Representatives from Westmeath County Council will meet with CIE and Bus Éireann next week for crunch talks regarding the purchase of the Railway Field in Athlone.

Councillors were informed of the development at last Monday’s (September 12 ) meeting of the Athlone Municipal District.

Councillors have repeatedly expressed their frustrations regarding the length of time the purchase of the land has taken and demanded that the issue be brought to a conclusion for the betterment of Athlone.

Fine Gael councillor John Dolan said the acquisition of the field is of “core importance” to the town and is “long overdue”. He said he and colleagues had met with Minister for Transport, Deputy Shane Ross, a number of months ago regarding acquiring the site, with the Minister saying that he “did not forsee it being a major problem”. He suggested the council update the Minister on the current situation in an attempt to progress the matter if a deal cannot be reached.

Sinn Féin councillor Paul Hogan said the issue has been dragging on for 15 years now. He said he too was at the meeting with Minister Ross and that the Independent Deputy had “quietened” his fears on the issue at the time. He added that Minister Ross told them he was prepared to meet CIE regarding the Railway Field if necessary.

Speaking this week, Fianna Fáil’s Aengus O’Rourke referred to the upcoming meeting between the Westmeath County Council, CIE, and Bus Éireann as “do or die”.

“The bottom line is, we need the Railway Field in order to properly plan for the future commercial development of the town,” he said. “To CIE it’s only an idle piece of ground in the Midlands. To me and to Athlone it has a major part to play in developing this town from a commercial, retail, and tourism point of view. Ease of access to and from our town for shoppers, business people, and visitors must be a priority.

“I have warned the Council Executive that if there is still no deal after the meeting at the end of September, then the gloves are off. I am looking for a meeting with Minister Shane Ross and the board of CIE. I now want to see progress, a deal must be done by the end of this year.”

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