On a recent tour of the Longford/Westmeath constituency, Sinn Fein leader, Mary Lou McDonald allowed for a number of hours in Athlone where she met with a number of local community groups and organisations.
Joined by Cllr. Sorca Clarke and Cllr. Una D'Arcy, Deputy McDonald initially visited Involve Ltd in Monksland. Involve Ltd is a youth oriented organisation with its head office in Athlone. This vibrant organisation is leading the way in traveller-inclusive youth services across the country as well as being the umbrella organisation for the locally based Traveller-Centric Magazine, ‘Travellers’ Voice’.
While there, company CEO James O’Leary spoke to the Sinn Fein leader about the crucially important work that the organisation carries out on a daily basis across the country, as well as speaking in-depth about the recently published ‘National Traveller & Roma Inclusion Strategy’.
Mr. O’Leary said afterwards that he was "delighted with the visit, I have a feeling that it is this kind of politics that will make a difference to the wider Traveller Community”. Echoing these sentiments, Mr. Michael Power, Editor of Travellers’ Voice Magazine added, "it was a hugely positive experience and it’s fantastic to have a person of such high esteem pay a visit and show such an interest in our work". Mary Lou stated, "it is such a great resource that highlights some of the hugely positive stories that happen across the country on a daily basis but are rarely to never reported on by the wider media."
In addition to meeting with the two Traveller groups, Mary Lou was thrilled to meet our distinguished local artist, Anna Boles. Anna’s work has been getting widespread recognition across the country and both were mutually delighted to make each other's acquaintance. Anna presented Deputy McDonald with a copy of her inspiration piece that captured one of our most famous of tourist haunts, the area around Sean’s Bar. When asked, if she enjoyed meeting the Sinn Féin TD, Anna replied, “I’m still on a high”.
From there, the group paid a visit to Athlone I.T. where Projects Manager, John McKenna and Registrar, Niall Seery gave a tour of the ever-expanding science and engineering facilities of the college. Special attention was paid to the increase in STEM subjects and their necessity in third level education. The party leader then moved further afield to the west of the county leaving those whom she had encountered in her brief Athlone stop-over a little richer for the experience.