Local Fine Gael councillor John Dolan has called on the local authority to apply for a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO ) for O’Neill’s pub site on Mardyke Street.
The site has been in an increasing state of disrepair since a fire devastated O’Neill’s pub just before Christmas in 2010. The remaining structure was demolished in the fire’s aftermath and planning permission was granted in 2012 to rebuild it. However, no progress has been made since that time.
Cllr Dolan told councillors at Monday’s meeting of the Athlone Municipal District that the site is going to come under the spotlight due to the proposed development of Church Street. He called the site “a mess” and “unsightly” in what is one of the main thoroughfares in town. He said it was time the council “took the bull by the horns” by taking control of the site by way of a CPO “for the betterment of the town”.
Sinn Féin’s Paul Hogan questioned whether anyone had ever queried the value of the site, and suggested that it might not be very expensive to acquire. He said that the Pump Lane junction adjacent to O’Neill’s site needs to be widened, and that such a move would complement plans for Church Street.
Fianna Fáil councillor Frankie Keena, said it is a pity to see a central location looking so dilapidated. However, he added the site has “lots of scope” to do something positive, and supported the call to take it in charge.
Director of services, Barry Kehoe, said nobody had ever approached the auctioneer regarding the value of the site, to his knowledge. He told councillors that before any such move is made it is important to come up with a plan as to how the site could be developed for public use. He warned that there may be liabilities that come with the site, and reminded the chamber that there was a protected structure at the location, which could also affect plans going forward.
He said there are “a fair number of steps to get through” but that a report should be drawn up and an assessment carried out on the viability of taking the site in charge.