Town geography means Athlone to lose mayor while Mullingar keeps chain

Athlone is unlikely to have a mayor from June this year.

The council’s director of services Hugh O’Reilly said that while Mullingar will be eligible to have a mayor after the Local Elections on May 23, Athlone will not - a move which a longstanding Athlone councillor has branded as “nonsense”.

Cllr Mark Cooney, who is not running for this year’s Local Election, is appealing to Minister Phil Hogan to fix this “anomaly” and allow Athlone to have a mayor to reflect its status as a town.

Under the local government reforms due to come into effect on June 1, towns with a population of over 20,000 will be eligible to have a mayor; however, because a large percentage of Athlone’s population lives on the Roscommon side of the town, it will not qualify for a mayor.

“It appears Mullingar will be eligible to have a mayor but Athlone won’t. There is a threshold of 20,000 population, and Athlone doesn’t meet this because part of Athlone is in Roscommon. Athlone will have a cathaoirleach, and Mullingar will have the option of a mayor,” said Mr O’Reilly.

He was responding to a question at Monday’s county council meeting from Cllr Cooney about whether the new electoral areas would have mayors or cathaoirligh.

Under the reforms, Westmeath is to be split into three electoral areas - Athlone, Mullingar-Coole, and Mullingar-Kilbeggan. The latter two areas will combine to make up the Mullingar Municipal District.

Cllr Cooney has a motion down for this Monday’s meeting of Athlone Town Council to ask Minister Phil Hogan to consider allowing towns like Athlone to appoint a mayor.

He says the idea of Athlone not having a mayor is “nonsense”.

“Athlone is losing its local authority [town council] and is also to lose the title of mayor. The reason given is that we won’t qualify on population grounds. This is nonsense - it should be changed to reflect the status of the town. The fact that a town has a mayor gives it a certain status and lets people know it is a town of considerable importance. We are one of the country’s larger towns, and a Gateway town.

“Carrick-on-Shannon and Drogheda might be in a similar position. I hope the Minister will consider ironing out these anomalies,” he added.

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