Group Agrees CDP Submission on Windfarms

Almost one hundred people crowded into a community centre in Co. Westmeath last week to voice their views on the placing of wind turbines in the south of the county.  After listening to many speakers, including Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, the gathering in Mount Temple agreed to send a submission voicing their disagreement on turbines to the county council, for inclusion in the next County Development Plan.

The gathering of local community members will send a submission saying that industrial windfarms must never be allowed to (a) impact on the amenity of our area, (b) create the potential for sleep disturbance through noise and consequently health affects, (c) negatively impact on the values of properties in close proximity (less than 2km from windfarm), (d) negatively impact on our environment through the unnecessary killing of birds and bats, (e) negatively impact on our proposed Natural Heritage Area, Lakeland and River Valley landscape, (f) cast any shadow flicker whatsoever on a person’s home, (g) be placed in a protected view.

The residents’ submission also mentioned their concern about the economics of the proposed wind export projects and they said they want to see the CDP include a requirement for energy developers to put a comprehensive decommissioning bond as well as an environmental bond in place for each and every industrial turbine developed.

The meeting heard from Michael and Dorothy Keane, who said they left their home in north Roscommon because of health problems they encountered due to a nearby wind turbine.  Gordon Hudson chaired the meeting, and John McNamara from People’s Voice facilitated the meeting at the community hall.  Labour party councillors, Jim Henson and Ger Corcoran were also at the meeting.

“Turbines are coming to this area, and we are not being told the truth, and they do make noise,” said John McNamara, who went on to say he wasn’t against renewable energy, but is against these wind turbines.

Deputy Flanagan said the government has put massive debts onto everyone’s shoulders, and now are selling everything off to pay back that money.

“In Great Britain, the people have mobilised, and have prevented blight on their landscape, but our government will accept it here,” said the Roscommon Independent TD.  “If it is to be done, you’d need certain requirements, and Deputy Penrose has a bill at first stage to have distances up to 1500 metres between houses, and the core part is decent guidelines.”

Ming said he contacted the bills office in Dail Eireann this week to establish when the bill would come before the house, on one of the Friday sittings.  He said he couldn’t find out if it was going to come up soon, but to speed up the process, he is putting in a bill of his own, which is similar to the Penrose one.  He said there will also be two other deputies putting up similar motions.

“Deputy Penrose’s bill is well put together, and he is a member of government, and I support it, and I think the Technical group and Sinn Fein would support it,” said Deputy Flanagan.

Former Mayor’s Book in 2nd Print

Austin Berry and Mary O'Rourke
Austin Berry and Mary O’Rourke

Last year’s best-selling Athlone book, ‘Stepping Back in Time’ by Austin Berry, sold out, and has gone into a second print run in the past few weeks.

The autobiography is the culmination of former Athlone Mayor Austin Berry’s life to date.  The former Independent politician first came to live in Athlone in 1965, from his native Clonshanny, Ballycumber in Co. Offaly.

‘Stepping Back in Time’ was launched by former Minister, Mary O’Rourke, in May 2012, and the book then started selling steadily.

Politics came late in life for him, and he won a tough local election to join Athlone Town Council as an Independent in 1999, when he was 69 years old.  Five years later, he beat off competition from political party members to retain his seat for another term.  In 2004, he became Mayor of Athlone following a tight vote, when Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein members voted for him.

Following his retirement from the council in 2009, Austin toyed with the idea of writing a book, and recounting the many anecdotes of his interesting life at home and abroad.  His granddaughter, Lisa Nicell-Treanor co-wrote the book with Austin throughout the snow filled winter of 2010 up to early last year, and they are both very proud of  ‘Stepping Back in Time’ – Austin’s Autobiography.

Austin’s story has it all laughter, joy, sadness and nostalgia and the limited edition book is available in some local shops, and on

Mary Lou – Wealth Tax Still On

Sinn Fein’s Deputy Leader and spokesperson on public expenditure has said that the party haven’t wavered from suggesting a Wealth Tax, but that they don’t suggest it should be used to reduce the budget deficit.  It was commented last week that the party had left their long standing proposal of a wealth tax off their budget proposal, which was announced earlier in the week.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald was speaking to before Athlone Sinn Fein’s annual dinner dance at the weekend, and said that the party’s budget proposals have been costed from the Dept of Finance.

“Others have not costed, but that is their lookout,” she said.  “We believe the wealth tax could raise €800 million, according to our estimate.  We don’t suggest using that money to reduce the deficit, but any money that would come from it could be ring-fenced for a jobs stimulus package.”

The Sinn Fein Dublin Central TD said that as and from next year, the Central Statistics Office will have the data to cost what a wealth tax will bring in.

“We do cost a third rate of tax of 48% for individual earnings over €100,000 and that’s for individuals who earn in excess of that, and we want a capital gains tax percentage to go back up to 40%.  In the 1990’s, we had a capital gains tax of 40%,” said Deputy McDonald.  “In a time of crisis you have to make difficult choices, but also fair choices, and where additional revenues have to be paid, you have to go to those whose pockets are that bit deeper, and those whose shoulders are that bit broader.”

Mary Lou – Would Consider SF Leadership

Cllr. Paul Hogan, Deputy Mary Lou McDonald and Cllr. Matt Carty, before the Sinn Fein dinner dance in Athlone.
Cllr. Paul Hogan, Deputy Mary Lou McDonald and Cllr. Matt Carty, before the Sinn Fein dinner dance in Athlone.

“If and when there is an issue around the leadership, I would consider that seriously at that point, but it is an extremely tough job, and there are very big shoes in that scenario to be filled,” said Mary Lou McDonald smiling, while being interviewed by

Obviously, “the very big shoes,” she is talking about, belong to her leader, Gerry Adams.

“It would be difficult for anyone. Gerry came out of the assembly, and now he is in the Dail, and has immersed himself in that, that’s not an easy thing to do, and people who criticise him and slag him off often, I’m not sure how well they would fare, if they make a similar type of journey,” said the Sinn Fein deputy leader, in Athlone at the weekend.

Deputy McDonald said she will be running again in Dublin Central at the next General Election, and that will be a much bigger task for her, because of the constituency being cut from four seats to three.  However all the pundits would see her retaining that seat.

“I’ve won elections, and lost elections, and I can’t take anything for granted,” said the Deputy Leader.

She appeared at a dinner dance in Athlone alongside Cllr. Paul Hogan, who is a town councillor.  Hogan got 4,339 first preference votes at the 2011 General Election, and missed out on being the party’s first ever seat in Longford/Westmeath, since Ruairi O’Bradaigh in 1957.  Deputy McDonald also appeared alongside Monaghan councillor, Matt Carty, who is the party’s candidate in Midlands-North West in next year’s European elections.

Ming and Hogan Debate Cannibas

Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan and Cllr. Paul Hogan (Sinn Fein) enjoying banter at the cannibas debate at AIT
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan (Independent) and Cllr. Paul Hogan (Sinn Fein) enjoying banter at the cannibas debate at AIT

You can imagine who was for legalising cannibas for recreational use, and who was against at the debate at Athlone Institute of Technology on Thursday afternoon.  Most of the 200 plus, mainly student audience came down in favour of Ming’s pro-legalising stance.

Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan for legalising
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan for legalising
Cllr. Paul Hogan against legalising
Cllr. Paul Hogan against legalising

Seanad No Group Exiled From Shopping Centre

Cllr. Jim Henson, Mary O'Rourke and Senator John Whelan at Golden Island
Cllr. Jim Henson, Mary O’Rourke and Senator John Whelan at Golden Island

A crew of cross-party ex, prospective and current politicians were not allowed to canvass for a No Vote in the upcoming Seanad referendum, at the Golden Island Shopping Centre.

Instead of inside the shopping centre, the canvassers gave out leaflets, and discussed their views with members of the public, outside the Athlone shopping arena.

Mary O’Rourke, former Fianna Fail minister and leader of Seanad Eireann joined forces with her former Seanad colleague, Independent Senator Joe O’Toole, as part of the Democracy Matters group which is canvassing for a No.  They were joined by a strong Labour presence in Athlone last week, when Senators John Kelly (Roscommon) and John Whelan (Laois), and former Athlone Mayor, Jim Henson, also of Labour were part of the canvass.  Democracy Matters was also helped in their canvass by John McNamara, a former Sinn Fein member, who is now PRO of the People’s Voice party.

O’Rourke has history with the Seanad campaign, because she was one of the authors of a report on reforming the Seanad while she was leader, during the 2002-2007 period.  However Fianna Fail in their General Election manifesto of 2011 weren’t entirely in favour of Seanad Eireann.

John McNamara and Mary O'Rourke looking for a No Vote
John McNamara and Mary O’Rourke looking for a No Vote

During the vote in July in Seanad Eireann to allow the holding of the referendum, senators voted along party lines with all Fine Gael and Labour members voting for the abolition legislation while all Fianna Fail and Sinn Féin members voted against.  However Deputy Pearse Doherty of Sinn Fein announced on 26th July, that his party would be canvassing for a Yes vote, and called the Seanad, “an affront to democracy,”.

Senator John Whelan, Senator John Kelly and former Senator Joe O'Toole
Senator John Whelan, Senator John Kelly and former Senator Joe O’Toole

Political Dynasty Member Calls for FF/FG Coalition


A Fianna Fail member has broken out of the traps in calling for a coalition between her party and those currently leading the government, Fine Gael.

Opinion polls for the past year has shown Fianna Fail make a slow rise in the polls, (after their near wipeout at the 2011 General Election), Fine Gael slowly falling in support, Labour having a major falling and Sinn Fein stalling.

The recent Red C/Paddy Power poll which came out this week put FF at 22%, FG 29%, Lab 11%, SF 15% and Ind 23%.  At first glance it would put FF/FG at joint 51% support, FF/SF 37%, FG/Lab at 40% and FF/Lab 33%, giving Mary O’Rourke’s suggestion the edge.

O’Rourke’s father, PJ Lenihan was a Longford/Westmeath TD for Fianna Fail from 1965 until his death in 1970.  However during the War of Independence he fought on the Pro-Treaty side, and only joined Fianna Fail following influence from Minister Sean Lemass.

“In 1943 my father ran for the local Athlone Urban District Council.  He ran as a Rate Payer’s Association candidate which was then understood to be another term for Fine Gael,” said Mary O’Rourke.  “He made it to head the poll on that occasion and on his later Local Authority forays he ran as a Fianna Fáil candidate.  Seán Lemass and Éamon de Valera must have swayed him in that regard.  He in time became Mr Fianna Fáil, Athlone and later on entered the Dáil for five short years before his death.”

In 1991, Mary’s brother, Brian Lenihan Snr. suggested a coalition between FF and Labour, and it was something which did come to pass in November 1992.

As of now, nobody knows who will form the next government, but the figures are currently agreeing with Mary O’Rourke.  But as Mary’s brother Brian used to say…..”a week is a long time in politics,”.

 On 22nd August 2010 in Béal na mBláth in County Cork, Brian Lenihan Jnr, the then Minister for Finance, (who is now deceased) spoke at the Annual Commemoration of the life and legacy of Michael Collins.

“Brian Lenihan was greatly honoured to have received this quite unexpected offer from the Collins Family and the Commemoration Committee and he expressed so publicly on that occasion.  I have spoken to Dermot Collins since then, who initiated the invitation to Brian and he was quite emphatic that he and the Committee were unanimous in wanting Brian Lenihan to have this privilege,” said Mary O’Rourke.

On the day, Brian Lenihan Jnr. said – ‘The differences between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael today are no longer defined by the Civil War nor have they been for many years.  It would be absurd if they were.  This period of our history is gradually moving out of living memory.  We ask and expect those in Northern Ireland to live and work together despite the carnage and grief of a much more recent and much more protracted conflict.”

“It is time that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would bridge the political divide between them and give serious thought to coming together in a political coalition come the next General Election,” said the former Minister O’Rourke.   “I know quite well that there are plenty who will dismiss my reflections here today as ‘Summer School Speak’ or even the wild rantings of somebody who has left the political system.  It is very easy to dismiss my thoughts in that cavalier fashion.

Mary O’Rourke gave her comments at the William Carleton international summer school in Clogher, Co. Tyrone.

New Education Board From the Ashes of Western VECs


At the New Galway Roscommon Education and Training Board inaugural meeting, Cllr. Michael Connolly (Tuam), Cllr. Jimmy Kenny, Cllr. Orla Leyden and Mr. Anthony Geraghty.

Roscommon, Galway City and Galway County VECs are no longer stand-alone entities, and have now become a new western education and training board, which had their inaugural meeting last week in Athenry. 

It was during the heatwave of Tuesday last week, that the new Galway Roscommon Education and Training board met for the first time.  Then CEO of the new board is David Leahy who opened the proceedings, and assured Roscommon members that “provision for one is provision for all,” which appeared to mean equality for Roscommon, considering that it was the smaller VEC.

“The transition phase and transformative phase will be done well,” said Mr. Leahy, adding that Minister for Education would be minded to visit if invited.

The new group got off to an interesting start by suggesting that their voting of the new Chairman would be done either by secret ballot, or open ballot.  Just two members, both rom Roscommon, Cllr. Sean Beirne (FG) and Cllr. Valerie Byrne (Hospital Action Group) voted for a secret ballot, but they were massively outnumbered by the fifty plus members of the two boards.

The Chairman of the new group is Galway’s Pat Gilmore, and he was elected unopposed, and the same applied to the election of the Vice-Chair, South Roscommon’s Cllr. Jimmy Kenny.  Kenny was proposed by his Roscommon colleagues Cllr. Orla Leyden and seconded by Cllr. Tom Crosby.

“Myself and Pat will work for our students in the years ahead, and I would like to propose to keep our sub offices in Roscommon, and I would appeal to the powers that be over that,” said Cllr. Kenny.  “We were afraid that we would be gobbled up like the ‘Galway hurlers’.”

There were murmurings from the Galway members, but no laughter about the GAA comment.

Cllr. Kenny also proposed that there be a sub-committee for Roscommon dealings, when such committees are formed.

“Regarding the venue, we should rotate venues for meetings, and we should be cognisant of the cost, and have meetings in our schools, and I propose that,” said Cllr. Leyden.  “Perhaps we could talk to the principals of the schools to save as much money as we can.”

It was seconded by Cllr. Crosby.

“Where it is possible we could talk to principals,” said the CEO.

The hot weather precipitated the new Chairman to call a halt to the meeting, and postpone some items on the agenda until the September meeting.