A TRIP by New Ross Town Council to the USA later this month in the hope of securing investment has the potential to bring ' thousands of euro and thousands of people' to the town.
This trip is billed to be 'the best opportunity this town has had in two generations' by Cllr. Michael Sheehan, who will be travelling to Washington DC on January 21 with Cathaoirleach Paul Crowdle and another delegate to be chosen by the County Manager.
'It means tourism, commerce, trade, jobs investment in, and promotion of New Ross,' said Cllr. Sheehan who assured there will be no additional expense to taxpayers caused by the council travelling state side.
His assurances come in the wake of a small protest outside last Friday's council meeting, where protestors gathered with placards carrying slogans such as ' No to USA Cllrs trip' and 'USA - €2,000 Cllr Holiday'.
While in the States the group will meet with President Obama's local contact and various White House officials to discuss their support of the JFK50 year and to formally deliver an invitation to the office of the President, outlining the format of the potential visit to New Ross.
They also plan to meet with members of the Kennedy Family. THERE WILL be no additional expense to taxpayers caused by members of New Ross Town Council travelling to the USA later this month on a trip billed to be 'the best opportunity this town has had in two generations'.
Cllr. Michael Sheehan, who is one of the three person delegation to attend Washington DC at the end of the month with the hope of securing investment for the town, assured that 'not one cent will be wasted on this trip'.
However, outside last Friday's special council meeting, which was held in the Brandon House Hotel, the proposal to send a delegation stateside was met with some opposition. A small group of protestors, who were also campaigning against property tax and water charges, gathered with placards carrying slogans such as 'No to USA Cllrs trip' and ' USA - €2,000 Cllr Holiday'.
Inside, the main issue concerning the council was the cost of sending a delegation to the US, which Cllr Sheehan was quick to address.
'I'd be willing to say that there will be no cost to the taxpayer. In these times it can be seen as a waste of money sending people away, but I can assure you that not one cent will be wasted on this trip. It has the potential to bring thousands of euro and thousands of people into New Ross,' asserted Cllr. Sheehan, adding that this trip 'could well be a turning point in the history of the town.'
Cllr. John Dwyer, who was quick to praise the schedule of meetings that had been presented to the council, voiced his concerns over the costs involved. 'This entire year with the JFK50 celebrations should not fall on the taxpayer,' he said. ' We have people living in houses that we can't afford to fix at the moment. We need to think of the optics of this. How will it look sending a delegation out to Washington?'
However, Cllr Sheehan told the meeting that this trip would make money for the town rather than cost it money. ' We have a list of several high profile meetings there and I'm confident that each of them can provide corporate sponsorship. You have to speculate to accumulate. The cost will be minimal in the short term, but will be zero in the long term. This is the Pandora's box of everything we've wanted to achieve.'
'To say no to this trip at this point would be a disaster,' added Cllr Victor Furness, who was clearly vocal in his support for Cllr Sheehan.
However, Acting County Manager Adrian Doyle was not convinced that sending a delegation to Washington would be the correct move.
'Cost is a big factor. You'd probably be looking at about €5,000. Also I think it needs to be said that JFK50 is happening off the back of the Gathering, not the other way around. I think really this needs to follow the national strategy. The Taoiseach and a delegation will go to America on St Patrick's Day as usual and I think it would be of much more benefit to go through the Taoiseach's office rather than going on a solo run. You wouldn't want to damage any existing relations,' said Mr. Doyle.
'This is not about duplicating, replicating or undermining any existing national strategies, it's about wearing the purple and gold and getting us out there,' added Cllr Sheehan.
Following a suggestion from Cllr Dwyer, Cllr Sheehan agreed that he would use his own council allowance, which he uses to support community projects, to fund the trip.
It was proposed that the delegation would consist of three people, Cathaoirleach Paul Crowdle, Cllr Michael Sheehan and another delegate to be chosen by the County Manager. When put to a vote six councillors voted in favour of the trip, Cllr Anthony Connick was the only one to vote against and Cllr Annette Larkin opted to abstain.
In the wake of the meeting, Cllr. Michael Sheehan said his decision to use his council allowance was done to ensure no rate or tax payer would be unduly affected.
'I know how tough things are and we need more innovative thinking to ensure we provide an international quality programme within a tight budgetary framework,' he said
'This is a turning point in the history of New Ross. It will open many opportunities for New Ross and will ensure that the JFK50 events, our town, our county are highlighted on an international stage. It has the potential to ensure we get our messages to millions which in turn could see thousands of people from overseas visit New Ross. It means tourism, commerce, trade, jobs investment in, and promotion of New Ross,' said Cllr. Sheehan.