There was a conflict of opinion between the executive and council members on the issue of casual trading at this week’s meeting of the Athlone Area committee.
The issue was on the agenda so councillors could designate sites in Athlone and Moate for casual trading, but the item had to be put back for at least two months.
Acting county manager Barry Kehoe pointed out that nothing could be decided for the time being as the Environment Section at the county council is presently working on a new set of bylaws governing the practice.
This should have been implemented at last month’s council meeting, but because of an administrative oversight which meant maps to indicate assigned pitches were ommitted, legal advice forced the council to begin this process again.
“We must be able to identify where in the county casual trading takes place,” said Mr Kehoe.
Both Cllr Tom Allen and Cllr John Dolan were critical of the council’s choice of the pitch in Moate and suggested it should not be in the centre of the town.
“I’m not really in favour [of casual trading]. It’s not fair to someone paying high rates and rents,” said Cllr Allen.
They were joined in their distaste for the barrow-boy life by Cllr Gabrielle McFadden who declared: “I don’t like casual trading on St Peter’s Square”.
However, in defence of the trade, Athlone director of services Hugh O’Reilly spoke up.
“Casual trading can be an advantage to a town selling locally-sourced produce and the like, and will bring people into a town,” he said, before reminding the members of the vibrancy of continental markets witnessed on holidays.
Area engineer Pat Nally asked that the members agree on a unified proposal, and “not have him adjudicate between them and the locals”.
Cllr Mark Cooney suggested adjourning a decision on the issue until after the full council votes on it in July.
Meanwhile Pat Nally agreed to meet Cllrs Dolan and Allen in Moate next week to decide on an alternative pitch to the one marked on the map at the meeting.