New mayor sets out stall for ambitious year in office

Athlone’s new mayor, Aengus O’Rourke, has set out an ambitious stall of aims for his term at the head of the local council.

Speaking at Monday’s meeting of the Municipal District, Mayor O’Rourke listed the Church Street enhancement project as top of the list of priorities.

He described the project as “one of the bravest, one of the most ambitious and most exciting projects to be undertaken by this local authority”, and pledged that he and the council will ensure that the decision to undertake the works will not be regretted by anyone.

Mayor O’Rourke said he then plans to quickly roll out a plan to tackle further phases for the years ahead. He promised to work on plans and designs to enhance other streets east and west of Church Street.

“I believe this scheme will change the face of Athlone town centre for the good and for the future in a way that sets Athlone apart from other towns and cities,” he said. “Businesses will want to invest, expand, and open here, while shoppers, tourists, visiting business people, and families will want to come to town, stay in town, relax, shop, socialise, and enjoy being in our town core.”

Mayor O’Rourke also lamented the devastating flooding that struck Athlone in 2009 and 2016, but is optimistic now that a flood defence plan is in place and Minister for the Office of Public Works, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, can represent local interests at a national level.

“I spoke to our new Minister with responsibility for the OPW, ‘Boxer’ Moran at length on a number of occasions in recent days about the works and he assures me that we will see machinery on site working on The Strand, The Docks, and The Showgrounds this autumn,” he said.

Also on the agenda is tacking the social housing crisis, something Mayor O’Rourke described as the biggest daily challenge faced by local representatives. He said the traditional local authority path to building social houses is not working, and pledged to do what he can to remind the authorities of the extent of this emergency in Athlone, and push for action at a local and national level.

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