Local representatives have come out strongly in support of Athlone’s bid for regional city status.
Mayor of Athlone, Aengus O’Rourke (FF ), has praised all the stakeholders who contributed to the submission.
“These are exciting times,” he commented. “What I am most pleased about in this process is that industry has come to the fore. It is industry who have prepared this report, who have put their hands in their pockets to put Athlone’s best foot forward, and they certainly have done with this document. I think it puts Athlone in pole position if the Government is to follow through on their commitment.”
Mayor O’Rourke added that he believes Athlone to be the standout town in the Midlands for city status.
“I really don’t see that any other town would come close to what we have to offer; from a growth potential point of view, from a business enthusiasm point of view - we have got it in spades,” he commented. “But apart from that, there is an ambition among the local business community and stakeholders to see Athlone fulfill its full potential, so we really do have a lot going for us.
“When you look at the employer base we have here, the amount of industry we have - and the IDA pipeline seems to be positive. The impact AIT has in all of this is immeasurable. It has really been a wonderful process which has copper-fastened all stakeholders with one thing in mind - to help Athlone reach its potential.”
Senator Gabrielle McFadden (FG ) believes Athlone to be the “only realistic contender for city status”.
“Athlone is the largest urban area in the Midlands. It has a key strategic location right in the middle of the country, acting as a gateway to the West of Ireland,” she said. “It is halfway between Dublin and Galway, straddling two provinces and is the meeting point for rail, river and road as well as having a third level college.
“The chosen location needs to be sufficiently distanced from Dublin so that it acts as a counterpoint rather than increasing the sprawl of the greater Dublin area. On this basis, Athlone is the only realistic contender. As well as its ideal strategic location, Athlone already has several significant employers, an educated workforce, fabulous pubs, restaurants, and hotels and a fantastic setting.”