Aengus O’Rourke Returns to Athlone’s First Citizen Role

Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke

Long-time local politician, Aengus O’Rourke became Mayor of his own town of Athlone, for the second time, at the Municipal District AGM last Monday afternoon.
His election as Mayor for 2020/21 came from an alliance between the four Fianna Fail members and the Green member of Athlone and Moate Municipal District, writes David Flynn. He succeeds his party colleague, Cllr. Frankie Keena who was Mayor in the last year.
The Fianna Fail councillor is a member of the Lenihan political dynasty – son of former Minster Mary O’Rourke, nephew and cousin of the late Brian Lenihan Snr and Jnr. His grandfather, the late PJ Lenihan was a former TD and held the first citizen role for Athlone for many years from the 1940s to the 1960s.
Cllr. O’Rourke was proposed as Mayor at the Athlone Municipal District election by his Fianna Fail colleague, Cllr. Vinny McCormack and the Green party’s Cllr. Louise Heavin. Cllr. O’Rourke had been previously Mayor of Athlone for 2017/18.
He was first elected to Athlone Town Council in 2009, and won the subsequent Municipal District elections in 2014 and 2019; however he was unsuccessful in the Longford/Westmeath Dail by-election of 2014, which followed the death of Fine Gael’s Deputy Nicky McFadden.
Mayor O’Rourke said following his election on Monday, that it was a huge honour to serve his town and district.
“We are living in extraordinary times, due to Covid-19, and we have seen families robbed of last goodbyes, and I would express condolences to the families of those almost 1700 Covid-19 people,” said the new Athlone Mayor.
Mayor O’Rourke is married to Lisa and they have four children. He is a businessman and is owner of Midland Print and Signs, which is based in Pearse Street, Athlone.
Fianna Fail’s Cllr. Liam McDaniel proposed Cllr. Louise Heavin as Deputy Mayor, and Cllr. Keena seconded the proposal.

Ireland still low on female politicians – RTE Political Correspondent

back row, Senator Gabrielle McFadden, front row, Mary O’Rourke and Martina Fitzgerald

Thirty-five women were elected to Dail Eireann in the 2016 General Election, but that is still low by international standards, according to RTE political correspondent and author, Martina Fitzgerald.

‘It was the first time that they got over the thirty mark, and thirty-five were elected, and more women were either added to the ticket’ or were put through the selection convention, according to Martina, whose new Irish political book, ‘Madam Politician’ is now No. 1 in the Irish non-fiction hardback bestseller lists.

Speaking to David Flynn of, Martina said that now twenty two percent of Dail politicians are women.

“That is historic, but it is low by international standards in Britain and Europe,” said Martina. “2016 is now a starting point, and where the 1992 election had twenty women elected, the same number was elected five years later in 1997, so that was a false dawn. There is a concern that this could also be a false dawn.”

She talked about Josepha Madigan, Dublin Rathdown TD, who was put on the ticket under the gender quota ruling, still having to go out on the campaign trail and get elected.

“More than eighty percent of female politicians came through the local election route, and in cabinet there is still only four women Ministers,” she said. “Most of the women I interviewed are against gender quotas at cabinet, and some like Mary O’Rourke are against them full stop.”

Martina said that former politicians, Mary Coughlan, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn and Mary Hanafin were originally against gender quotas but they have all changed their minds, as they previously believed there would be more women in politics by now.

“Mary Hanafin said that she wouldn’t like to see them (the quotas for Dáil candidates) go beyond forty percent, which will happen in 2023,” said Martina. “More women have definitely come on board as a result of gender quotas and one of them is now a Minister (Madigan).”





Roscommon To Facilitate Presidential Candidates

Cllr. Tony Ward, Cllr. Ivan Connaughton, Martin Connaughton and Cllr. John Keogh at the AGM.

Roscommon County Council members said at their July meeting that they would consider candidates who wish to run in the future President of Ireland election, and would hold a special meeting in the coming weeks, if required.

Cathaoirleach, Cllr. Ivan Connaughton proposed that the council would facilitate the process of any interested party in the election. He was supported by the three South Roscommon Independent members, writes David Flynn.

“They could contact us, and come here and meet us to show their interest,” said Fianna Fail’s Cllr. Connaughton. “We have no meeting in August, but we may have to call a special meeting in September or earlier if required, in the interest of democracy.”

Independent Cllr. Tony Ward agreed, and said that President Higgins is doing a good job, but that is not the issue, and that there is a right to vote and a right to run. He recalled that seven years ago former councillors Tom Crosby and Jimmy Kenny proposed a candidate for the 2011 Presidential election. They chose Dana Rosemary Scallon at the time.

“It’s never a good thing to close down democracy, and there would be uproar if the 18 councillors here didn’t have to go before the people in 2019,” said Cllr. Ward.

Cllr. Paddy Kilduff said it’s good that democracy will prevail, and he was disappointed with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail supporting the present President, who was a Labour candidate.

“I hope that we give consideration to Sean Gallagher, and only for RTE he would be the President, and although he hasn’t declared yet, I would like to see him declare,” said the Independent.

Fine Gael member, Cllr. Liam Callaghan, said that he would not be blocking any person who “had the guts to put their name forward,”.

“This is a power we should implement and should facilitate,” said Independent, Cllr. Laurence Fallon.


Cllr. Frankie Keena Returns as Athlone Mayor

Fianna Fail Stalwart Challenged by Independent Member

The longest serving Athlone councillor, this week, took up the position of Mayor of the town for the 2018/19 year, and will be Mayor leading up to the local elections next May.

Mayor Frankie Keena, who has been a Fianna Fail councillor since 1995, was proposed and seconded by Fine Gael members, John Dolan and Tom Farrell, respectively. He was supported also by his Fianna Fail colleague, outgoing Mayor, Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke.   Mayor Keena was previously first citizen of Athlone in 1999 and 2014.

The Athlone Mayoral election had another candidate, Cllr. Ailish McManus, (Independent) who was proposed by fellow Independent, Cllr. Michael O’Brien, and seconded by Sinn Fein’s Cllr. Paul Hogan.

“In the interests of Team Athlone, I propose Cllr. McManus,” said Cllr. O’Brien.

“We haven’t had many female Mayors of the council, and the last one was former councillor Gabrielle McFadden, (2013) and before that was Sheila Buckley-Byrne, (2010) and it was many years before that there was Mary O’Rourke (1986) as Cathaoirleach,” said Cllr. Hogan.

However the Fine Gael/Fianna Fail alliance held and continued to run Athlone Municipal District council, as it has done since 2014. The four councillors voted for Cllr. Keena as Mayor and Cllrs Hogan, McManus and O’Brien voted for Cllr. McManus.

Cllr. McManus called the situation “disingenuous,” but gave best wishes to Mayor Keena for the coming year, writes David Flynn.

Mayor Frankie Keena was co-opted to Athlone Urban District Council in 1995, following the death of Senator Sean Fallon. In 1999, Cllr. Keena won a seat to Athlone UDC, and held the role until the 2004 elections, when he lost his seat, in Athlone Town Council (formerly UDC) but won a seat on Westmeath County Council on the same day. He was re-elected to the county council in the 2009 elections, and when the council changed again in 2014, Cllr. Keena was simultaneously elected to the county council and the new Athlone Municipal District.

Cllr. Ailish McManus was co-opted to Westmeath County Council and Athlone Municipal District in 2016, following the election of former councillor Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran to Dail Eireann.

The Fine Gael councillors also proposed and seconded Fianna Fail’s Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke as Deputy Mayor, and he was supported by Mayor Keena.



Yes or No, have your say

By Morgan Fagg – Guest Blogger

The Marriage Equality referendum in 2015 made history around the world and the Irish diaspora was active online and even returning to Ireland to have their say. As another referendum rapidly approaches us, Morgan Fagg looks back at the Irish community’s response, in the heart of Spain.

Around the world, people voiced their opinions and excitement and here in the capital of Spain, a few people gathered together to show that they cared. The event was called Send the Love Home and a few years on, I am sure I won’t get in too much trouble for talking about that referendum.

Sending the Love Home:

I had heard about the Send the Love Home campaign event that was being held in Madrid and decided to show my support, I was far from my hometown of Athlone yet far from alone with over 50 people from all over Ireland gathering for the event.

The idea was that the group would gather and take pictures in the shape of a heart and we were all encouraged to wear green.

I put a few Saint Patrick’s Day items in my camera bag and cycled down to Buen Retiro, a beautiful park with a very large pond, located near Madrid´s city centre. I decided to bring my camera as you never know when a photographer can’t make it or hasn’t been fully organised.

Ireland´s attitude towards gay rights had changed enormously since Norris v. Ireland, when David Norris successfully charged that Ireland was in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to respect for private and family life. Almost two decades later, it was clear from the large colourful crowd that people were coming out to show their support for the LGBT community.

Some G.A.A. friends saw me with my camera bag and asked if I was the photographer but before I had time to explain that I wasn’t, the organisers were asking “who´s got a camera?”

I got off my bike and took out a novelty green tie and leprechaun hat to hand to some friends. The group organised themselves in the shape of a heart and I took off on my bike to the other side of the pond to try and get some photographs.

Returning out of breath, I decided it was best to try to take the pictures from a rowboat and carefully jumped the barriers and got into a tourist’s paddle boat.

An Italian couple held our Vote Yes signs, with pride and two cailíns rowed over to see what was happening with all the Irish flags.

They may have been in the same rowboat but the two girls were a Yes and a no vote as one girl was just visiting Madrid and her friend had lost her vote, when she, hmm, took the boat.

The Italians, the Irish girls and a grandfather and his grandson in another rowboat, all took signs which were written in three languages, Tá, Yes and Sí.

At one stage our flotilla nearly flooded as the abuelo and his grandson got too close to a fountain.

We never asked them their opinion on changing the President´s age from 35 to 21 but appreciated all the Spanish support we could get.

I had to be careful not to get my camera wet and also to watch out for those trilingual signs as Sí, Yes and Tá looked too much like the Spanish word for nap, si-es-ta. Tired of our Spanish Armada, it was time to get back on dry land where I took some green hair dye from my magic camera bag for one last photograph.

One of the organisers Clodagh Daly and a girl from Northern Ireland Kathryn Warke ended up in a very patriotic photograph, a tricolour of green, blonde and orange as Ultan O´Cinneide did an incredible hulk impression with the green hair dye.

Ireland made history around the world in the last referendum and there will be many more exciting referenda in the future so even if you have crossed the pond, have taken a boat or lost your vote.

Voting is essential to our democracy, get involved whenever possible and have your say.

Even in a foreign land, you are never far from friends and a feeling of home, let’s enjoy our democracy. The upcoming referendum is particularly sensitive for those who have had to travel to England or abroad in the past and an emotive issue for everyone else.

For the upcoming referendum, it is difficult to wear silly hats and gather in a public park but be respectful and try to enjoy, making new friends and being politically active, climbing poles and canvassing in the rain and we will continue to send the love, from Spain.

Morgan Fagg is an English teacher in Spain and an amateur photographer with experience with Local Elections, National Elections and the 2011 Presidential Election.

Paul Hogan Has “Refused to allow” Sinn Fein Nomination

Left to Right, Cllr. Paul Hogan and Senator Trevor O’Clochartaigh in Athlone in 2012. This week, the Senator resigned from Sinn Fein over bullying allegations, and Cllr. Hogan has refused to go to convention for Sinn Fein over similar allegations.

Former General Election candidate and current Sinn Fein Councillor and Group Leader Paul Hogan has refused to allow his name to be nominated to contest the Longford/Westmeath Sinn Féin convention to be held in the Longford Arms on Saturday, December 2nd.

Speaking today, Cllr. Hogan said:

“I have written to the General Secretary of Sinn Féin and Rúnaí um Thoghcháin to inform them that I will not be allowing my name to be nominated for the Sinn Féin convention on Saturday 2nd of December 2017.

“Having gone through the membership list, I am confident that I would have received the support in excess of 53% of members who were attending the convention. The vast majority of members are good decent Republicans.

“However, I have highlighted a number of issues internally within Sinn Fein dating back some years. I am continuing to seek justice in this regard. I have also indicated that there a significant cohort of listed members who should not be members of Sinn Féin. It would therefore be hypocritical of me to align myself with these individuals and that is the reason I have refused to allow my name go forward for convention.

“I continue to have the unanimous support of the Costello/Hurson Cumann in Athlone and significant support from the membership throughout the two counties. I know there will be disappointment from my supporters on my refusal to allow my name to be nominated.

“I contested my first election in 2004 and in every election since, I have received substantial support. My support increased substantially in every General Election from a very low beginning when I started out first. This culminated in me hitting the crossbar in the 2016 General Election after 5 days of counts and recounts in Keenagh.

“I want to sincerely thank the 7,824 people that voted for me in all preferences and across every part of Longford and Westmeath in the last General Election. I particularly want to thank my team and my supporters for all their help, guidance and assistance over nearly 15 years.

“I am continuing in my work as an elected representative on Westmeath County Council” concluded Cllr. Hogan.

All Parties Keep Roscommon Property Tax Levels

It was decided by all the parties at Roscommon County Council not to increase their property tax for the coming year, because of a national review being carried out in 2019.

“Obviously there will be an increase in 2019, so I propose to have property tax to remain in 2018 as it was in 2017,” said Cllr. Tony Ward, Independent at the council’s September meeting last week.

His proposal was seconded by his South Roscommon colleague, Cllr. John Keogh, who said the review in two years’ time may have significant impact on families, writes David Flynn.

“We will have to review matters in the lead up to that, and the last thing we want is to place further burdens,” said the Fianna Fail councillor.

Fine Gael’s Cllr. John Naughten, also from South Roscommon also supported the Ward proposal.

“It’s unfortunate that we are not in a position to reduce the property tax, but at least by allowing it to remain the same there is no extra burden on families,” said Cllr. Naughten.   “Hopefully we will be able to deliver additional services to people in the year ahead.”




Paul Hogan Details Sinn Fein ‘Kangaroo Court’ though SF Dispute Claims

A former Mayor of Athlone, and current Sinn Fein councillor, Paul Hogan has reiterated his criticism of his party, following on from his statement last week, and has made new claims about life inside Sinn Fein.   However the party also responded to his claims to the media last week.

Last week, Cllr. Hogan accused the party of engaging in bullying, and kangaroo courts. This week he gives great detail of the “kangaroo court”, and is critical of party president, Gerry Adams for not visiting Athlone Town in the winter of 2015/16 during the floods.

In a statement to the media following Cllr. Hogan’s surprise statement last week, Sinn Fein responded to the Hogan statement.

Their statement said:

Sinn Féin’s National Investigations Committee has dealt with the complaints made by Councillor Hogan.

Previously the party had received complaints about Councillor Hogan which were not upheld and Councillor Hogan was exonerated.

Since then the party has done all in its power to heal the rifts within the constituency and the majority of members are continuing the work of the party with Councillor Hogan.

It is not true to say that Councillor Hogan received little or no support from Sinn Féin in the general election. In fact the party president Gerry Adams was in the constituency canvassing with Councillor Hogan during the campaign.

Sinn Féin takes these matters extremely seriously. In accordance with legal advice to the party we have established a National Investigation Committee to handle complaints of this nature. We are not involved in kangaroo courts and we reject this allegation in the strongest terms.

Death threats and hate mail are a matter for An Garda Síochana and the party has told Councillor Hogan this.

However Cllr. Hogan released a further statement this week highlighting his experiences inside Sinn Fein over the past two years. He goes into detail about his ‘Kangaroo Court’ experience.

Cllr. Hogan stated on Monday, July 3rd.

“I wish to clarify a number of issues in relation to statements released in response to my public statement on bullying within Sinn Féin last week.

“Firstly, it is not true to state that “Sinn Féin’s National Investigations Committee has dealt with the complaints made by Councillor Hogan”. In fact, on the 3rd of March 2017, I received correspondence from the Chairperson of the National Investigations Committee to essentially say that the Committee would not deal with the complaint as it was ‘too wide-ranging’ and that the Chairperson felt it ‘impossible’ for the committee to deal with my complaint. It also stated that I could not make a statement against the party itself. This reply came five months after I submitted the complaint.

“Since my exoneration, the party has done all in its power to isolate and marginalise any structure of the organisation, which supported my candidature. They have also isolated and marginalised any individual who supported my candidature.

“I also stand over my assertion that I received little or no support from Sinn Féin. In fact, from November 2015, all resources were withdrawn from Longford/Westmeath. My publications including introductory canvass cards and posters were withheld for weeks and months respectively. We were not invited to canvass training. Despite repeated requests for a leadership visit to County Longford, none was forthcoming. The party president Gerry Adams did visit Mullingar for approximately 45 minutes and that was basically the entire contribution by the party to my election campaign. The party leadership also chose not to visit Athlone when much of the town was devastated by floods.

“On October 16th 2015, I was subjected to a kangaroo court, where the verdict was decided in advance of the meeting. I had no right to reply. I stated my innocence to these two individuals and was told that they didn’t care, that the decision was made and I was to support the female candidate that management had lined up to replace me. They told me I could remain as a Sinn Féin councillor, group leader and member. I would expect any member guilty of the allegations relayed to me to be expelled from the party, and not remain as an elected representative or member. I was told I had 6 hours to make my decision and that the matter was on the agenda of the Ard Chomhairle scheduled to meet the following morning. I was told that I would be suspended indefinitely without prejudice, that the leadership would release a statement and in that scenario I wouldn’t be able to contest the election anyway. In any person’s language, this was a kangaroo court and many of my rights as a citizen and as a Sinn Féin member were broken or infringed at this meeting.

“I previously informed the party that I had met with An Garda Síochána in relation to hate mail and the death threat.

“I am calling for major reform on how the party deals with complaints. Many members and former members of the party have contacted me in the last number of days. There is widespread turmoil within the party and there needs to be a radical shake up of middle management.

“I want to thank everyone who has offered their support to me in the last few days and your messages are a great source of support in this very difficult time” concluded Cllr. Hogan.

“Bullying is Rife in Sinn Fein,” – Long Time Member Breaks Silence

A statement released yesterday by a Sinn Fein councillor from Athlone has opened up an amazing can of worms about his experience in recent years inside the generally secretive political party. While there have been public rows among members over the past few years nothing has come through like this statement, where the local politician talks of “Bullying,” “whispering campaigns,” and more dramatically, “Kangaroo Courts,” inside Sinn Fein.

Westmeath County Councillor Paul Hogan says bullying is rife in Sinn Féin across the country including Longford and Westmeath. Cllr. Hogan asserts that he is a victim of intense bullying since October 2015 and that there is a constant whispering campaign against him by some members of Sinn Féin.

Cllr. Hogan stated:

“I am an elected representative for the last 13 years and have an impeccable record and reputation of hard work and delivery for the people of this constituency. I am a founding member of the re-established Costello/Hurson Cumann in Athlone since 2003 and a member of Sinn Féin since 1998. I have contested seven elections at a local and national level since 2004. I have also previously served as a member of Sinn Féin’s Ard Chomhairle for a number of years and Chairperson of the provincial Sinn Féin structure.

“However, after a relationship break-up with a former partner, which subsequently turned acrimonious, I was the victim of a spurious and unrelenting campaign of whispering and innuendo, accusing me of the most insidious and vile allegations. Despite a clear conflict of interest in the establishment of an inquiry, all of these allegations were found to be untrue.

“I was subjected to at least one kangaroo court. I have been bullied since October 2015. I have been intimidated and threatened. I have received a death threat. I am the victim of an anonymous hate mail campaign.

“I received little or no support from Sinn Féin in the last General Election. In fact, Sinn Fein’s management line withdrew all resources from my campaign and actually tried to hide posters and literature, paid for by the local organisation. Some members of Sinn Féin canvassed against me. As many will recall, I hit the crossbar in last year’s General Election, losing out by a mere 280 votes, out of a total of 55,816 votes. This is a margin of 0.5% and I firmly believe the campaign against me lost Sinn Féin a seat in the Longford/ Westmeath constituency.

“I documented all what happened to me detailing the kangaroo court, threats, intimidation, bullying, witch-hunts and whispering campaigns. I then submitted an official complaint of over eighty instances of varying levels of bullying to the new Disciplinary Committee of Sinn Féin who refused to deal with the issues contained in the complaint. This is a clear attempt to cover-up and protect those who tried to destroy my reputation.

“Since the election, I and any of the local structures who supported me were subjected to a policy of isolation and marginalisation. Rules were broken or made up when it suited the party.

“This is my first time speaking publicly on what I have endured. This 20 month ordeal has had a very negative impact on my health. I have received medical assistance on a number of occasions and underwent a surgical procedure caused by the stress I have endured. This has also impacted on my daily level of work.

“Bullying is rife within Sinn Féin and I can give many examples of same. The vast majority of Sinn Féin members are good people, but there are some who are allowed to sully Republicanism in the most anti-Republican manner.

“I would like to thank the members of my local organisation in Athlone who have stood with me every step of the way. I would also like to thank the members of Mid-Longford Sinn Fein and North Longford Sinn Féin who rescinded their membership because of the way I was treated by the party. I would like to thank my council colleague Cllr. Úna D’Arcy for all of her support too. I also want to thank my family and partner for their unstinting support during this very difficult time. Lastly, and most sincerely, I want to thank the people of Longford/Westmeath, all 7,824 of them, who placed their trust in me by voting for me in the last election.

“I will continue to serve the people who elected me to the best of my ability”.




Aengus O’Rourke Becomes Athlone Mayor

Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke

The most recent member of the Lenihan political dynasty has become Athlone town Mayor with unanimous support from the members of the town’s municipal district.

Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke is the son of former Minister Mary O’Rourke, and cousin of the late Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan Jnr.   O’Rourke’s grandfather, PJ Lenihan was a TD for Longford/Westmeath in the early 1960s, and uncle, Brian Lenihan Snr. was a seven time Minister.

The new Athlone Mayor for 2017/18 saw his candidature proposed on Monday afternoon by his Fianna Fail colleague, Cllr. Frankie Keena, and seconded by Fine Gael’s Cllr. Tom Farrell. He also got support from Independent member, Cllr. Michael O’Brien, and there was no other challenger to Cllr. O’Rourke, writes David Flynn.

Mayor Aengus O’Rourke joined Athlone Town Council in 2009, and when it became a municipal district in 2014, he won his seat back. Also in 2014, he was the Fianna Fail candidate in the Longford/Westmeath by-election, following the death of Deputy Nicky McFadden. In the election he came second to the then Deputy Gabrielle McFadden.

O’Rourke is a popular member of Athlone Municipal District, and was Deputy Mayor in 2014/15 to his Fianna Fail colleague, Frankie Keena.

Former Minister Mary O’Rourke was in the public gallery alongside other members of Mayor O’Rourke’s family, including his wife Lisa and their children.

The new Deputy Mayor of Athlone is Cllr. Frankie Keena having being proposed by Fine Gael’s Cllr. John Dolan and seconded by Cllr. Farrell.  He was also supported unanimously, and endorsed by Sinn Fein’s Cllr. Paul Hogan.