Christmas lights upgrade a necessity as Athlone plans for brighter future

A collaborative approach between the local authority and business personnel of the town is the way forward to ensure the Christmas lights which shall illuminate the heart of Athlone in 2019 match the quality of the enhanced Church Street landscape.

The present festive illuminations which adorn the town’s main thoroughfare have been in situ for a number of years and do need an upgrade to reflect the financial commitment apportioned to the works along Church Street.

Speaking this week, Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke, noted that the lights were past their “sell by date” and no longer “fit for purpose” along the town’s main thoroughfare.

“We need a more contemporary design with regard to the town’s Christmas lights in keeping with the quality of work which has taken place on Church Street. Unfortunately, Christmas lights do not come cheap these times and with this in mind and we are meeting with the Chamber of Commerce and members of the local business community with the aim of a joint approach to the purchase of relevant Christmas lighting for 2019,” Cllr. O’Rourke remarked.

With a sum of €4m being spent on the enhanced streetscape, Cllr. O’Rourke reiterated the need to have festive lighting in place this time next year which will reflect upon the changed centre of town landscape.

“No one is hiding behind this situation, it requires investment and hopefully, as a local authority, we can work in unison with the local business personnel to find a solution to this issue,” Cllr. O’Rourke concluded.

Addressing the issue, Cllr. John Dolan, Cathaoirleach, Westmeath County Council, stated that there needed to be vibrant Christmas lighting in the centre of the town.

“As a local authority we are always willing to work with local enterprises and groups within the community, be it Destination Athlone or the Tidy Towns committee, to ensure that appropriate and enhanced Christmas lighting is in place for 2019.

“The matter needs a unified approach and hopefully we can achieve this goal next year. The local authority contributes €30k towards the Christmas lights on an annual basis, with the bulk spend in this regard seemingly been attributed towards the putting up and taking down of the illuminations,” Cllr. Dolan commented.

Expressing his feelings with regard to the issue, Cllr. Michael O’Brien, while noting that Athlone had progressed aesthetically in recent times, said the Christmas lights were an “embarrassment”.

“The people of Athlone and surrounding areas are very disappointed with the lights, and rightly so. This is an issue I’ve raised several times over the past few years. Last year, I brought forward a council motion for the lights to be upgraded and I raised the issue again this year at our budget meeting.

Thankfully I’ve received a commitment now from the council executive that they will engage with the business community with a view to investing in and upgrading the lights. There needs to be a significant capital investment made to upgrade the lights for the entire town.

Much of the Christmas Lights budget goes towards paying a contractor to erect the lights, with the rest going to towns and villages across the Athlone Municipal District. As the leading town in the Midlands, Athlone’s Christmas lights should be the very best.

“A great Christmas lights display is good for the community and good for business as it helps to attracts people to come into the town. I will continue to raise the issue and hopefully next year we can have Christmas Lights of which the town can be proud,” Cllr. O’Brien emphasised.

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