Athlone remains open for business despite the false impression that the commercial areas of the town are awash with floodwater.
This is the message that Athlone councillors and business people are keen to spread throughout the surrounding environs. Earlier this week Athlone Chamber of Commerce president, John McGrath, announced after an informal survey that the sales figures of some businesses in the town are 60 per cent lower than those projected, meaning local business people are suffering. Mr McGrath has put this down to the false perception that Athlone is closed due to being completely flooded.
The president of the chamber was keen to stress that none of the businesses in Athlone have been forced to close to date. Mr McGrath is a third generation business owner in the town. As a result, he is more than capable of empathising with what some small businesses are going through just two weeks before Christmas. He said many people are saddened at a time when they were looking forward to possibly their busiest Christmas since the recession hit in 2008.
Westmeath County Council has been working to assure all potential visitors to Athlone that the current flooding is impacting a very small part of the town and is having no impact on the town’s retail and commercial areas. All of the roads and streets are open, all car parks are clear and all of the shops, hotels, bars, and restaurants are open for business and will remain so.
At this week's Westmeath County Council meeting on Monday, December 14, Cllr Frankie Keena voiced his anger at how the national press have presented the situation in Athlone, referencing one publication that suggested sewage was running down the main streets of the town.
Athlone Mayor Tom Farrell also criticised national press publications for printing misleading articles that suggested Athlone is a complete washout: "Athlone is open for business as normal," he said. "There has been a bit of scaremongering and people have gotten the impression that Athlone is flooded. People are staying away. There is no business that I know of that is closed as a result of the flood."