Mayor’s ambitious plans get lukewarm reception

There was a lukewarm reception for Athlone mayor Gabrielle McFadden’s plans for a farmers market in the town during the All Ireland Drama Festival and a March Madness shopping weekend at the end of this month.

While colleagues support her in principle, they expressed grave reservations about how much could be achieved in such a short time.

The council executive agreed with councillors, reserving its decision on free car parking for the last weekend of this month until Cllr McFadden can show that there will be a co-ordinated event taking place.

Cllr McFadden said traders she has spoken to would be willing to offer something free or offer a discount on the last weekend of this month.

Having heard of a similar scheme in another town where it was “a huge success and every business got involved”, she thought it would be a good idea for Athlone.

Town manager Barry Kehoe said such an event could be good for the town.

“If something substantial is organised and in place and going ahead, then it’s a good thing,” he said.

But he said Mayor McFadden should provide evidence of support for her plan, provide advertising, and the event should be well organised before the council can consider free parking.

“I’m not trying to be negative, but there’s a risk it will just be a free parking Saturday if the business community isn’t behind it,” he said.

The lack of a plan was also an issue for Cllr Kevin “Boxer” Moran.

“I don’t think you’ll achieve it so close,” he said, suggesting that she should follow the example of similar towns who advertiser a project like this at the beginning of the year.

She said she would go to every business in the town to assess their interest and secure their support, but was clearly frustrated by the lack of enthusiasm from her colleagues.

Her proposal for a farmers market during the All Ireland Drama Festival was received more warmly, with Cllr Alan Shaw describing it as a great proposal.

Cllr Shaw, who is PRO for the festival committee said the organisers are always looking to build on the festival fringe and to develop the experience for visitors.

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