Councillors at Monday’s meeting of the Athlone Municipal District unanimously rejected Fáilte Ireland’s decision to maintain Athlone’s tourist office in its current location in Athlone Castle.
The issue was originally raised by Fine Gael councillor John Dolan at June’s district meeting, where councillors all expressed the opinion that the office’s current location was unsuitable. Correspondence was opened between the council and Fáilte Ireland, however, director of services, Barry Kehoe, informed the chamber this week that the latter was not willing to consider rehoming it.
At Monday’s meeting, Cllr John Dolan said “it makes no sense” to have a tourist office located inside one of Athlone’s foremost tourist attractions. He argued that its presence takes away from the castle as an attraction and that the space should be utilised to enhance the service and experience the amenity provides. He added that the centre of town was the best place for the office to be situated.
Fianna Fáil’s Frankie Keena echoed Cllr Dolan’s comments. He said a tourist office “should pop out” at tourists and visitors and is not something people should “have to go looking for”. He backed the suggestion that the office should be located in the centre of town, and called for the council to extend an invitation to Fáilte Ireland to visit the chamber and discuss the issue.
Fianna Fáil councillor Aengus O’Rourke accused Fáilte Ireland of taking the “lazy view” on the issue. On this statement he was interrupted by Mr Kehoe, who said the organisation believed the castle is “the best place” for the office. Cllr O’Rourke said he took such statements “with a pinch of salt”. He called for unanimity among councillors and for the views expressed to be brought to Fáilte Ireland.
Sinn Féin’s Paul Hogan suggested that the marina be considered an appropriate location for the office. He said with the extension of the Greenway there will be lots of tourist activity in the area that could then be directed to other amenities. He suggested a delegation be sent or an invitation extended to Fáilte Ireland “as a matter of urgency ahead of the next tourist season”.
A letter will now be sent to Fáilte Ireland to arrange a meeting on the matter.