Saturday 18 November 2017

Roscommon locals furious at proposal to move to Leinster

COMMITTEE: Environment Minister Alan Kelly
COMMITTEE: Environment Minister Alan Kelly

Claire McCormack

Plans to change a county boundary that would put 12pc of Roscommon people into Westmeath have been met with fury.

Under the new proposals some 7,000 people in the Connacht county's fastest growing area would be subsumed into the bordering county - they would also become part of Leinster.

The attempts to redesignate the areas will lead to a "major identity crisis" for communities west of the Shannon, a local GAA star and businessman has warned.

And they are not alone.

An independent committee, appointed by Environment Minister Alan Kelly last year, is also reviewing local government boundaries in Drogheda, Waterford and Carlow. However, opposition to the move is growing.

Last week, more than 1,500 people attended a public meeting organised by 'Save Roscommon' - a newly established campaign group.

Residents from affected areas including Monksland, Rooskey Cross, Ballymulavill, Bogganfin, and Barrybeg, described attempts to redistrict 30km of their county as "a disgraceful land grab".

Shane Curran, former Roscommon goalkeeper and businessman, also attended.

"It's shameful that a government should come along and not only change the boundary of a town or a county but also change the boundary of a province which has never, ever happened before in our time," he said.

"Cromwell did say 'to hell or to Connacht' but it's 'to hell or to Leinster' for the people of Roscommon," he said.

He argued that Roscommon County Council has invested millions in infrastructure, paid for by Roscommon's taxpayers, to develop the southern parts of the county over the last 20 years. "Now they want to take it from us in one swoop," he said.

Other long-term implications include the loss of cultural identity, and social ramifications in terms of prosperity and connectivity.

"We are Roscommon people from the west of the Shannon. This would be a historical change and we are totally and utterly opposed," he said.

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

"They would be left in limbo. Teams won't want to play with a county that they are not from - it's as simple as that," said Mr Curran, a St Brigid's club-man.

Meanwhile, Robert Troy, Fianna Fail TD for Longford-Westmeath, said there is "no justifiable reason" to redesignate the county and warns of the economic problems that will ensue.

"It makes no sense to split a county boundary. They will lose such a huge rate base because there are so many international factories and businesses based in the areas," he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment said: "We're in the middle of a process so we don't know yet what the recommendations are."

Sunday Independent

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