Monday 27 May 2019

'This is absurd, this is embarrassing'

Arbitrary move to divide Foulksmills like something out of a Spike Milligan novel

Cllr Oisin O’Connell marking out the divide in the road in Foulksmills
Cllr Oisin O’Connell marking out the divide in the road in Foulksmills
The New Ross/Kilmore divide

David Looby

'I thought I'd woken up in a Spike Milligan novel.' This was Cllr Oisin O'Connell's initial reaction when he discovered that Foulksmills village - close to where he lives - is now partially in the new Kilmore electoral area and partly in New Ross.

The more he looked into the changes wrought by the commission earlier this year, the less they made sense, he told Wednesday's monthly meeting of New Ross Municipal District council.

Cllr O'Connell said when he first saw the new electoral map he assumed Clongeen had been split from Foulksmills.

It wasn't until he received an official report from the department that he discovered the anomaly.

'The Department and the minister will say that no-one is responsible for anything. I didn't imagine they could be more stupid but the supplementary map with the orange line proves they could,' Cllr O'Connell said.

Using an orange spray paint canister Cllr O'Connell has highlighted how the village is literally divided, to the extent that residents standing on one side of the road are in one electoral area and by walking a few steps are suddenly in another electoral area.

Cllr O'Connell said: 'The iconic oak tree will be in Kilmore and the Oak Tree Tavern opposite will be in New Ross. When I first looked at it I had this strange notion that this felt familiar and then I remembered the comedian Spike Milligan's satirical novel Puckoon. I literally felt like I'd woken up in a Spike Milligan novel. It was meant to be a satirical novel not a how to guide for the Boundary Commission. This is absurd, this is embarrassing. I have barely talked to anyone in the village about this as it's an embarrassment.'

He asked how Foulksmills village and its residents can be represented politically when the area is located between two entirely separate electoral districts thanks to the Boundary Commission's decision.

'When one side of the bridge is in one area and the other is in another how do you apply for an Arts and Amenity grant? Coming into the village from one direction the electoral areas change three times and they change four times coming into it from the other side. They are using this and slavishly following the line as a border. There is no rational reason for that. This has been done in a way that everyone can avoid responsibility for this. How can you get a group of well educated people sitting around a table and actually say they are satisfied with this. How does this fulfil local democracy?

'With the amount of swapping around of the chess board over the last decade when exactly does this stop? Every five years the commissars in Dublin will put in a new district like a colonial landscape curiosity. This is not funny.'

Criticizing the patent lack of overall vision being applied by the Boundary Commission, Cathaoirleach Cllr John Fleming said: 'It's unbelievable. Common sense doesn't apply here. This impacts everyone.'

Cllr Martin Murphy said he fully supported Cllr O'Connell.

'It's absolutely ridiculous. I don't know what the processes could be to end up like this. We should have been afforded an opportunity to object,' Cllr Murphy said.

Cllr Willie Fitzharris had a theory, saying as he understands it the commissars are following old parish lines.

'But it's a bit crazy. I on longer represent the people who are living 100 yards away from the border in the village. Oisin and I have been savaged by the commission and we want some extra support from other areas,' he said.

Cllr Larry O'Brien said when it comes to allocating roads budgets Foulksmills will be negatively affected.

Cllr O'Connell put forward a motion calling for the Boundary Commission map not to be slavishly followed in the event that it would split a village, which was unanimously supported.

New Ross Standard