Minister Naughten’s boundary comments ‘unhelpful’ - O’Rourke

Fianna Fáil councillor Aengus O'Rourke has branded recent comments from Minister Denis Naughten on the Roscommon-Westmeath boundary dispute as "unhelpful".

In an interview with the Irish Times on Tuesday, Minister Naughten described the proposed changes as an attempted "land grab" and said there would be no changes to the boundary between Roscommon and Westmeath under the current Government's watch.

"One way or another we will not be proceeding with this land grab,” he added.

Speaking this week, Cllr O'Rourke disputed the Minister's comments: "I don't think remarks like that are helpful, to be honest," he said. "I don't know a single person who has said this issue is about grabbing land. It is a process to examine certain options, and we still await that report and the Government's response to it."

Cllr O'Rourke says the desire to redraw the boundary comes entirely from an administrative point of view: "I don't see any sense in the likes of Enterprise Ireland and the IDA drawing a line between Athlone and Monksland and having Galway regional offices looking after the Monksland area, while the regional offices in Athlone cannot engage," he said. "That for me does not make sense."

"Leave electoral boundaries out of it altogether, which seems to be what inflames this whole debate; I think there are positive practical matters from an enterprise viewpoint that we should be considered, and I hope these are the things the commission focus on when they report."

Fine Gael councillor and Mayor of Athlone, John Dolan, echoed Cllr O'Rourke's comments. "In our view this is an independent commission we were asked to make a submission to," he said. "We will accept whatever decision that commission makes. All it is looking at is what is best for that area and what is the best way to administer it.

"Unfortunately, there has been some scaremongering by a number of people. It needs to be made clear that no matter what the decision, the people in that area will still be in the diocese of Elphin, they can still play football in Roscommon with their chosen clubs, nothing will change in that way. This is purely being looked at from an administrative point of view. We have no interest in getting into an argument over so called 'land grabbing', because that is not what this is."

The report on the boundary issue is said to be in its final stages and is due for publication in the near future.

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