Sunday 8 December 2019

26,000 have their say on 'land grab' between counties

Actor Chris O'Dowd shows support for native Roscommon as transfer to Westmeath looms

STANDING UP: Chris O’Dowd has thrown his support behind the campaign against the proposed boundary change. Photo: Reuters
STANDING UP: Chris O’Dowd has thrown his support behind the campaign against the proposed boundary change. Photo: Reuters

Claire Mc Cormack

Up to 26,000 people and groups have officially lodged views on controversial plans to change a county boundary that would put 12pc of Roscommon people into Westmeath, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Under the plans, almost 7,000 residents of south Roscommon would suddenly become part of the Lake County.

The father of Hollywood actor Chris O'Dowd, from Boyle, says he was one of the first to make a submission against the new proposals.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Sean O' Dowd said: "There is no logic to these plans whatsoever, it's a land grab on behalf of Westmeath councillors.

"Where is the logic in taking a part of Connacht and giving it over to Leinster on the other side of the Shannon? The whole thing is ludicrous."

He said his son Chris, who has been tweeting about the saga, fully supports the 'Save Roscommon' campaign.

"Chris will never forget his roots. He is living in Los Angeles but he's a Boyle man and a Roscommon man to the core."

Despite living almost 50 miles away from affected areas, including Monksland, Rooskey Cross, Ballymulavill, Bogganfin, and Barrybeg, Mr O'Dowd felt compelled to submit his views to the Athlone Boundary Review committee.

"I'd say I was one of the first ones to get it in. The area has been part of Roscommon forever, since the counties were declared.

He continued: "I can't understand why that productive area of Co Roscommon, that has received multiple grants from Roscommon County Council and other agencies on this side of the Shannon, should suddenly be handed over to another administrative body in a different province."

Westmeath County Council has made a submission in favour of extending its boundary.

The council claims that this would be the most appropriate administrative arrangement for promoting the future development and prosperity of the Athlone area.

However, those fighting the proposal argue that any move to re-designate the area would have a devastating impact on Roscommon's infrastructure, finance, identity and sense of community.

They also criticise arguments that their position stems overwhelmingly from a GAA perspective.

Two of Roscommon's leading GAA clubs, Clann na nGael and St Brigid's, will be in the firing line if the boundary alteration goes ahead.

Members of the 'Save Roscommon' community group, who recently travelled to Mullingar to deliver several boxes of submissions, describe the GAA argument as "nonsense" and "a desperate attempt" by reeling opposition to deflect the debate, rather than focus on vital issues such as economics, finance and the future viability of Roscommon as an entity.

Ger Aherne, Kiltoom resident and Save Roscommon spokesperson said: "There has been an attempt by those in Dublin, the Department of Environment, the commission itself, some politicians and indeed Mullingar and Westmeath local councillors, to diminish and trivialise and marginalise our opinions on this issue and to associate solely with movement of the GAA".

The apolitical group claims that the GAA element of the 'Save Roscommon Campaign' is at the lower end of their spectrum of issues.

"The members of the Save Roscommon Committee come from community groups, local politics and a full range of sporting codes and individual citizens. It is a truly inclusive group, with one focus alone - to save Roscommon," said the spokesman.

An independent committee, appointed by Environment Minister Alan Kelly, is also reviewing local government boundaries in Drogheda, Waterford and Carlow.

Sunday Independent

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