National Development Plan a source of much discussion as Athlone becomes a university town

Hello to all the Advertiser readers.

In the last few days, there has been the publication of a National Development Plan. We had read some of that maybe two to three years ago, but much of it is new. The most important thing is that each bit of infrastructure has to be measured against the carbon issues contained therein. That will mean, in my mind, that many of these plans will never be realised when the implications of them are made clear.

Be that as it may, it is good to have a National Development Plan and I note, among other things, that the ring road around Galway is deemed to be an imperative. I would imagine that would be the idea of many living in and around Galway. Equally, for us in the Midlands, the Mullingar to Longford Road is rated to be a priority. We will wait and see how that develops.

In the meantime, there are very worthy train and Luas developments which I have no doubt the Minister for the Environment, Eamon Ryan, will seek to get implemented as very necessary transport infrastructures.

The real test will be how loud are the voices in favour of A, B, C or D and how penetrating those voices will be, and, in the end, how influential those voices will be in the light of the overall climate change plan.

It’s good that the plan is out there and that we will all have a say through our elected representatives as to how it develops.

How interesting it is to note that there is now a first female president of Maynooth University. She is a Finnish professor named Eeva Leinonen. She has been in other universities, particularly in Australia. Professor Leinonen succeeds Professor Philip Nolan who in his time led great campus developments, but also has been working for Ireland when he played a critical role as chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group to NPHET.

Can you imagine, in a place where for centuries only men trod the corridors, what it must be like to have a female president of Maynooth University? Maynooth opened up in 1967 when they admitted students other than seminarians to their first postgrad course which was the H Dip in Education. I was a graduate of that course and I remember at the time it was regarded as oh-so original to have people like us going into college, and now we have a female professor in charge of the whole of Maynooth. Good for you, Professor Eeva, and may you have a good tenure in office.

While we’re talking about Maynooth, I must tell the readers about a new book which has come out called The Deep End: A Journey with the Sunday Gospels in the Year of Luke, by Tríona Doherty and her co-author Jane Mellett. Firstly, Tríona is a well-known and talented local journalist and writer. She and her co-author have a degree and a postgraduate degree in theology from Maynooth College.

The book is beautifully produced, and I understand it is in the new bookshop at the back of Burgess at Lloyd’s Lane in Athlone. It may well also be in Eason, I don’t know, but I do know it is in the new Athlone Bookshop. It is a very worthy, thoughtful book and I would encourage people to look it up in the bookshop or in the library and to delve into it. I have read it and am working my way through the second reading.

Well, the big news in Athlone last week was the naming and the inauguration of the university in Athlone linked with Limerick, the Technological University of the Shannon (TUS ). It’s linked with the River Shannon which, of course, flows through both Limerick and Athlone. It’s interesting that the River Shannon was a means of communication hundreds and hundreds of years ago throughout Ireland. In fact, when the monks came to set up Clonmacnoise, it was down the River Shannon they came, which I have always thought was such a universal way of setting up their seat of learning.

I was invited to the opening but due to an engagement with the final editing of an RTÉ show, I couldn’t go to it. But Aengus was invited and he also took my place as well.

I want to take this opportunity to strongly praise and endorse the work of the previous director of Athlone IT, Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin, whose life work it was to ensure that Athlone got university status. He will always be remembered for that, and for the open way in which he conducted his work in Athlone.

We must also remember the very first director, Dr David Fenton, who set Athlone originally on its path towards excellence.

On the rugby front, the four Irish provinces had wins of varying degrees in the United Rugby Championship, particularly Connacht who performed really well, and Leinster who had a scrape-in win of Dragons 6-Leinster 7. That was a match with errors all around and Leinster, in the last few nail-biting minutes, was lucky to eke out a win.

Be that as it may, it’s a great start to the rugby autumn-winter season by the four provinces in Ireland. I only hope they don’t get it into their head that they’re all individually wonderful teams and wonderful players, and begin to lose the run of themselves, as we might say, and believe that they can conquer everywhere.

TG4 and RTÉ have fused together in a great alliance so that each weekend we will have one of the headline rugby matches on either of the two stations. This is a great development and I am so pleased about it. I’m sure we all share in the delight that we will have, on a weekly basis, decent Irish rugby matches.

I’m sure all the readers have noticed the dip in the temperature which came on so suddenly after a wonderful warm September. Keep yourself warm in this cold weather, and continue to mind yourself. Covid is not gone away, and we have to observe all the health stipulations so that we can remain free.

That’s my lot for this week. Hope to talk with you all next week.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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