Longford-Westmeath representative Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran is set to assume the role of Minister of State at the Office of Public Works (OPW ) at the end of this week.
Succeeding Galway East TD Sean Canney, who has assumed the role for the last 12 months, the move marks the first time Athlone has had a sitting Minister since Mary O’Rourke was Minister for Public Enterprise from 1997-2002.
Speaking recently, Deputy Moran said the role he is about to take on is demanding but that he is looking forward to the challenge.
“It is not just about flooding, the OPW is about monuments, Garda stations, and tourism as well,” he said. “Now we want to make sure that all the projects we have announced over the last 12 months come to fruition. I hope when people see works taking place they will be convinced that this Government is working.
“We want to see money spent on capital projects now, on infrastructure, and that is the big drive in the Independent Alliance, particularly in terms of the upcoming budget.
“The big infrastructure project for Athlone is the cycleway bridge across the Shannon. Also, in relation to flooding, the main drainage for Athlone is a very big issue and is something that I will need to find funding for.”
Deputy Moran also believes more work is needed to promote the Midlands tourism brand.
“That is something I am working very closely with Denis Naughten on,” he said. “I had a meeting with the Minister and with Fáilte Ireland recently on this. I believe we are not getting the level of tourism we should be.
“We have so much going for us. We probably have the best hotel service in the country, the best restaurants and pubs, the best taxi services - so we need now to promote these to their fullest potential.”
Deputy Moran said he is continuing to work alongside local representatives in an effort to secure regional city status for Athlone.
Speaking this week, Mary O’Rourke said that having a sitting Minister can only mean good things for Athlone, and wished Boxer the very best of luck in his new role.