Voices were raised during Monday’s October meeting of Athlone Town Council as fears over the future of the town and its funding were discussed.
During a motion by Cllr Sheila Buckley Byrne (Independent ) asking for rates in the town to be aligned with those of the county, some councillors became visibly frustrated over the impending termination of the town council next year and what it means for Athlone.
During the heated exchange Independent councillor Kevin “Boxer” Moran accused the Fine Gael councillors of being happy to see Athlone Town Council go next year.
Speaking to the Advertiser after the meeting Cllr Moran said “It’s disgraceful that they’re happy to get rid of our town council... People fought to save the Seanad but no one came out to fight when the Government decided to demolish the town council.
“But now that it’s getting closer to the end people are getting worried,” he added.
In response, Fine Gael’s Alan Shaw reiterated to the Advertiser that there was nothing wrong with local governent reform. And although he wouldn’t confirm if he was happy to see Athlone Town Council go, he said that the new municipal authority structure will be better for the county and town. “I’m happy to see town council reform... “Boxer” attacked us... this is radical reform, but it won’t reduce representation,” he said.
“I would also like to recall that Cllr Moran had initially welcomed the reform document ‘Putting People First’ when it came to our attention last November,” he added.
Fellow Fine Gael councillor Gabrielle McFadden insisted she was not happy with her party’s decision to reform local government.
Speaking to the Advertiser she said that although Cllr Moran made a point of noting that the three Athlone Town Council Fine Gael councillors (Cllrs Shaw, McFadden, and Mark Cooney ) and Labour’s Cllr Jim Henson were in favour of the demolishing of the council, she was not.
“I don’t believe it’s the right thing to do but there’s nothing I can do about it now. I fear we’ll lose out on the budgets. Is Athlone going to get the same looking after? We’ve put money aside for such things as the castle, gallery, marina, etc. But I don’t know if we’ll get the same looking after come May,” she said.
“Why fix something that’s not broken?” Cllr McFadden asked.