Offaly Fianna Fáil TD, Barry Cowen, has hit out at what he sees as Athlone attempting to jump to the top of the queue for city status in the midlands.
Speaking during a debate on the National Planning Framework, Deputy Cowen said that Tullamore, Mullingar and Athlone should all be rewarded for working together as a gateway.
Mayor of Athlone, Aengus O’Rourke, said he bemused by the noises coming from certain quarters concerning the issue.
“Listening to them, it would appear that they are promoting the Gateway Model, which for me is a model that has not worked for any of the towns involved,” the mayor commented. “It has been in place now since around 2002 or there abouts, and for me it has not yielded great dividends for anybody.
“Athlone is the business capital of the midlands region, and that is where we should be focusing our energies and attention, rather than trying to promote the status quo, which clearly has not seen any of the towns reaching their full potential.”
Mayor O’Rourke added that he believes the issue has gone off point recently, in that other towns in the region are viewing this as an attempt to boost Athlone alone.
“This is not about Athlone seeking city status for its own benefit,” he said. “It is about getting regional city status for the midlands. Athlone would clearly be the hub, but within a 40 minute drive of Athlone you have a population of a quarter of a million people, so that takes in Tullamore, Mullingar and Longford. After all, Longford County Council, Roscommon County Council, Westmeath County Council all agree with that approach.”