With a new art gallery, newly refurbished castle, funding for an extension of the Regional Sports Centre, and a European Town of Sport designation, Athlone is “in an exceptional place” going into 2013, according to the mayor Jim Henson.
Cllr Henson offered a highly optimistic view of current developments in the town, and says he is looking forward to another six months at the helm of the council.
“Athlone has been exceptionally lucky with the amount of developments we have coming on stream here, compared to other towns of a similar size.
“I am looking forward to the official opening of the castle this year. I am also delighted that the Regional Sports Centre has been granted a loan of €1m,” he said, referring to an allocation to be made in next Tuesday’s town budget for the expansion and refurbishment of the sports centre.
He added that Athlone’s designation as the European Town of Sport for 2013 would bring many benefits to the town, and is particularly looking forward to the launch of the Mayor’s charity golf event in Glasson on St Patrick’s Day in aid of four local charities.
Cllr Henson praised the town councils of the past 15 years for their work in bringing several important projects to fruition.
“Athlone is well placed to ride out the crisis, and this is to do with how efficient the councils have been in Athlone over the last 10 to 15 years. I am lucky to be mayor at this time, but I can’t take credit for these developments,” he said.
“Look at the Regional Sports Centre, the art gallery, the castle, and the new building that has started for Athlone Community College - there is a massive amount of money coming into Athlone and these developments are coming to fruition now.
“Athlone is in a exceptional place and we will ride out the storm; it is time to chase down the doom and gloom and be more positive about the future.”
However in spite of his positive outlook on Athlone, the mayor was quick to criticise his own party’s handling of budget cuts at national level.
“On the negative side, I am not happy with the Labour Party’s respite care cuts and children’s allowance cuts - they are very hard to stomach. But I’m not going to run from the party - I’m going to stay within the ranks and try to influence politics from within.”