As the conclusion of 2022 fast approaches, Cllr Aengus O’Rourke, Cathaoirleach, Westmeath County Council, spoke with the Athlone Advertiser this week, taking time to reflect upon what has been and look towards positive pastures new for Athlone and and its environs in 2023.
“While we are very fortunate to be amongst loved ones at this particular time of the year, we must spare a thought for the people of Ukraine. Staying warm and staying alive are their priorities for the days, weeks and months ahead.
“As a town we are providing support to the refugees fleeing war torn Ukraine. We have many women and children from Ukraine now staying among us in Athlone and they are very welcome. As a town and a country, once again we have demonstrated our willingness to support those less fortunate in the world.
“If I had one wish at the end of this calendar year it would be to see the barbaric war that the Russians have inflicted on the innocent people of Ukraine end immediately,” Cllr O’Rourke said.
Pertaining to matters local, the Cathaoirleach stated that Athlone continued to evolve with the town now a prime location for inward investment, its many amenities proving attractive to companies.
“As a town Athlone is going from strength to strength. In recent years we have seen a range of companies both new and established investing in the area, growing their businesses and creating valuable new employment opportunities.
“Interestingly, almost five thousand people now travel into Athlone to work every day, more than any other provincial town of its size. Workers travel into Athlone from right across the midland’s region.
“Athlone is a wonderful town, unquestionably it is the business capital of the Midlands region. The town and surrounding area is renowned for superb food, great shopping, excellent accommodation for visitors and our central location makes Athlone very convenient to access.
“We have a diverse array of employment bases including semi-state, med-tech, pharmaceutical, ICT, retail, tourism and education to name a few. Our diverse employment base gives us a sustainable employment base that is not reliant on any one industry or business arena. We are therefore the envy of many provincial towns,” Cllr O’Rourke added.
Working in tandem with his fellow public representatives from Athlone-Moate Municipal District, the Cathaoirleach noted that, in unison, they all strive to better Athlone and ensure the town makes vast strides on a national level.
“Work is ongoing on our new pedestrian bridge spanning the mighty River Shannon and is due for completion in May 2023.
“As public representatives, we are always striving to advance our town and region. For example, the presentation of our town is very important to me. I want the town to look its best for our citizens and visitors alike. This year Athlone was awarded a Gold Medal in the National Tidy Towns Awards for the second year in a row which was a huge achievement. This good work will continue.
“Last week Irish peacekeeper, Pte Sean Rooney lost his life representing Ireland in Lebanon, all our thoughts and prayers are with Sean’s family at this very sad time. This incident brings home to us, the dangers that our troops face on overseas duty. Therefore, it is important that at this time of the year we acknowledge our local members of the Defence Forces who are on duty overseas at this time. They should know that we are very grateful for the work they do. I would also like to acknowledge those who will be working over the Christmas and New Year period to keep essential services running.
“Finally, I would also like to say a special thanks this year to the many volunteers around the Athlone area who give so much of their time and energy to this town. There are many examples of those who coach children at sports, pick litter, deliver dinners, sit on parish committees, raise money for good causes and so on, the list is endless. Athlone is a better place to live in because of their selfless dedication to their town and to those less fortunate,” Cllr O’Rourke concluded.