Athlone’s new mayor has promised to lead a campaign to support local business in the town.
Cllr Gabrielle McFadden says she will urge people to shop locally and by keeping their business in Athlone, they will keep Athlone in business. She says it’s a habit she practises herself with her own children.
She has also committed to using part of her mayor’s allowance to run a storefront competition to support the businesspeople of Athlone.
This is essential at a time when 20 per cent of business premises in the town are vacant, she said.
While we are living in a time of what she called “great cynicism”, she said Athlone Town Council will prove to the townspeople that local government is about public service, not about self-service.
Cllr McFadden was emotional as she took over the chair from outgoing mayor Jim Henson and she said it’s a matter of personal sadness for her that she will be the last mayor of the town she loves, before the town council is stood down after next year’s local elections.
She listed some of the council’s many achievements, such as the Luan Gallery, Athlone Castle, and the Regional Sports Centre and said these and other initiatives came about because of the hard work and creative thinking of the townspeople, councillors, and the dedicated local executive.
“It’s no accident that other towns which are doing well strike rates and have local representatives,” she said, citing other successful towns like Killarney.
Other initiatives she hopes to see through during her time as mayor are the Athlone Greenway, a political debating competition for senior cycle students in Athlone’s five secondary schools, and a permanent exhibition relating to Count John McCormack.
Cllr McFadden’s election was watched from the public gallery by members of her family, including her sister Deputy Nicky McFadden, her father Brendan (a former councillor and mayor of Athlone ), her husband Brian McLean, and son Luke.
Bishop John Kirby, a family friend, was also in the public gallery to support Cllr McFadden.
She was proposed by Cllr Mark Cooney and seconded by Cllr Sheila Buckley Byrne, who said Cllr McFadden has many of the values shared by all councillors.
Cllr Buckley Byrne said the new mayor’s interests revolve around Athlone being a super Midlands town, and councillors were unanimous in their support and good wishes for Cllr McFadden and their gratitude to outgoing mayor, Jim Henson.
Cllr Henson said he was lucky to preside in a year when over €60m in spending for the town came to fruition.
His proudest moment was receiving a salute from soldiers at Custume Barracks, he said.
He was praised by all of his colleagues for his dignity, impartiality, dedication, courtesy, and what was described as a superb legacy.