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Naughten confirms superfast broadband for local housing estates



Minister Denis Naughten has confirmed that Siro is about to commence the construction of superfast high speed broadband to homes in the housing estates in Monksland, Bealnamullia, Summerhill and Baylough in Athlone.

  The roll-out of up to 1000mbps pure fibre high speed broadband by Siro, the joint venture between ESB and Vodafone, will take approximately five months to complete. This will deliver the world’s fastest broadband speeds to businesses and homes throughout the town of Athlone, Minister Naughten said.

  “This is a significant boost for South Roscommon and I want to thank Siro for its commitment and investment,” stated Minister Naughten.

  “I am determined that every premises in Ireland will be able to access high-speed broadband as quickly as possible through a combination of commercial and State-led investment and this work by Siro will contribute significantly to achieving this.”


Fitzmaurice to campaign for Group Water Scheme ‘victims’


People who are on Group Water Schemes are still being discriminated against, according to Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

  Deputy Fitzmaurice has welcomed a Government decision to refund people who paid their water bills, but it’s a reminder, he says, that the many people in rural areas who are on Group Water Schemes “are being forgotten about once again.”

  “It is right that the Government refunds the water charges to those who paid them but the reality is that the many people who are on Group Water Schemes in rural areas are not receiving an adequate subvention to cover the cost of the water that is supplied to their homes.

  “In almost all cases, groups of people in rural areas got together to arrange their own water supply and their action have saved the Government hundreds of millions of euro over the years. In addition, people with their own septic tanks have seen costs of between €10,000 and €15,000 in recent years to upgrade their facilities in order to comply with legislation.”

  Deputy Fitzmaurice says that over the next few weeks he is going to embark on an “intense campaign” to raise awareness of the plight of those on Group Water Schemes and “how they are being treated like second-class citizens.”

  “I will be seeking an extra subvention of at least €100 per house for these people to bring them in line with how everyone else in the system is treated” the TD revealed.

  Deputy Fitzmaurice said there are a lot of Independent TDs from rural areas and he is calling on them to stand up and be counted on this issue.

  “We now have a situation where many people in rural areas on Group Water Schemes – who are paying for their own water supply – are getting up every day and going to work and find that their taxes are paying for water and sewerage services to big towns and cities. It is double taxation and is grossly unfair” he concluded.

Leyden sets sights on FF nomination


Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council Cllr. Orla Leyden has confirmed her intention to seek a nomination to run for Fianna Fáil in the next General Election.

  The Castlecoote woman told the Roscommon People the time felt right and that she hopes to run as one of two Fianna Fáil candidates.

  “When I spoke to the Roscommon People after my appointment as Cathaoirleach in June, I didn’t rule it out (running in the general election). In the last three and a half months I’ve taken part in something like 50 public engagements and this has made me realise that I want to continue making a contribution in both Co. Roscommon and nationally too,” she said.

  Cllr. Leyden joins sitting Deputy Eugene Murphy, Cllr. John Keogh and Cllr. Michael Connolly (Galway) as confirmed convention candidates.

  Cllr. Leyden added: “As Cathaoirleach I’ve realised I’m capable of managing the demands of family and political life. My support system has gathered around me; my husband and my daughter, Donata, who’s now ten, and of course my parents. Everyone has come on board and been really supportive.”

  Asked what prompted her to make her move, Cllr. Leyden suggested a growing frustration with how a number of issues had been dealt with.

  “I’ve been increasingly frustrated about a number of issues particularly the mental health report and of course the battle we’ve had (in Castlecoote) over wind energy.

  “There are so many areas I feel I could improve as a TD but where I’m limited as a councillor.”

  Cllr. Leyden said she was “very passionate about the county and politics in general” and while she hopes to see out her term as Cathaoirleach, the role has encouraged her to go further.

  She added that she has received many messages of goodwill from around the county.

  “I’m determined and there is an opening and while the time wasn’t right last time around, it is now.”


Roscommon cleans up after Hurricane Ophelia



Local politicians were quick to praise the various bodies who have been working hard in the aftermath of Hurricane Ophelia to restore power and water and clear roadways in Co. Roscommon.

  The hurricane hit Ireland on Monday causing widespread damage and the loss of three lives and while Roscommon may have escaped the brunt of the weather event, there were reports of power outages and “significant damage” across the county.

  Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy said that while Monday’s storm wasn’t as bad as first expected, local and national authorities deserved credit for a quick response.

  “Ophelia wasn’t as disastrous in some areas as we initially thought but that’s down to the fact that we were prepared and forewarned. Our sincere gratitude must go to the Met Office, Gardaí and county council staff amongst others.

  “All the services worked together to ensure this was a manageable situation. Credit must go to Roscommon County Council outdoor staff, to the ESB and Irish Water who are working hard to restore services to people as some areas in Roscommon were left without power and water and credit must go to the Civil Defence and indeed to all the emergency services for their fantastic efforts,” he said.

  Fine Gael Senator Frank Feighan echoed Deputy Murphy’s sentiments on Tuesday.

  “I am aware that some emergency responders put themselves in harm’s way in order to help and protect others.

  “Well done also to the emergency crews and outdoor staff from Roscommon County Council who worked late until Monday night to clear trees and debris. By 10 pm, fallen trees had been removed from more than 60 locations and all national and regional roads were open.

  “I also want to extend my appreciation to all who were involved in the extensive clean-up operation. We certainly owe a great debt of gratitude to everyone who responded during Hurricane Ophelia right across the county.”

  Meanwhile, Irish Water and Roscommon County Council confirmed the full restoration of power at the Ballinlough-Loughglynn water treatment plant yesterday (Wednesday).

  A statement released by Irish Water yesterday said that a water tanker, which was supplied by Mayo County Council, had been stood down. The company extended its thanks to both county councils and ESB Networks.


Cabinet to discuss Athlone boundary proposals


Minister Denis Naughten has confirmed that a report on local government, including consideration of the Athlone Boundary Report, will be presented to Cabinet in the coming weeks.

  “I have been working closely with the Minister responsible for this plan, John Paul Phelan TD, and I am confident that this will provide clarity once and for all to the Athlone boundary issue,” stated Minister Naughten.

  In advance of the Cabinet discussion Minister Naughten has sought a meeting with the six local councillors as well as the Cathaoirleach and CEO of Roscommon County Council.

  “While I am a firm supporter of greater co-operation across the River Shannon, I am also utterly opposed to any change whatsoever to the border of County Roscommon,” stated Minister Naughten.

  “I made this view crystal clear to An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar before my appointment as Minister and I expect that this position will be respected in the final decision by Cabinet.”

Concern as some locals waiting up to four months for driving tests



Fianna Fáil TD for Roscommon/Galway Eugene Murphy has highlighted the fact that people in Roscommon and Athlone are subjected to some of the longest waiting times for driving tests in the country – with waiting times of over four months.

  Deputy Murphy says: “Figures from the Road Safety Authority indicate that people in Athlone have one of the longest waiting times in the country as they are typically waiting 17 weeks or over four months to sit their driving test and 1,892 people in Co. Westmeath have not been scheduled for a test yet.

  “The waiting time for a driving test in Roscommon is 16.8 weeks and over 700 people have not been scheduled for a test while there are over 3,000 people in Co.  Galway who have not been scheduled for a driving test yet.

  “The figures in Longford are also quite high at 15 weeks with over 500 people still not scheduled for a test while in Carrick-on-Shannon in Co. Leitrim people are waiting 13.4 weeks to sit their driving test with 469 people still waiting to be scheduled for a test.”

  Deputy Murphy said such long waiting periods are “simply unacceptable” as many people are left in limbo for up to four months.

  “Many of these people may be waiting for a full licence for employment purposes or a job application may be hinging on them having a full licence while other drivers are paying exorbitant levels of car insurance for provisional licences and they are being left waiting long periods to sit their driving test.”


Roscommon Hospital Theatre overlooked as Galway surgeries cancelled


An Independent county councillor in Roscommon has expressed surprise that a theatre in Roscommon Hospital which has spare capacity was overlooked when elective surgeries were cancelled at Merlin Park Hospital.

  Cllr. Laurence Fallon, right, has called on all parties involved in securing temporary mobile theatres for Merlin Park Hospital in Galway to work together to ensure the deadline suggested by orthopaedic consultants is met.

  Cllr. Fallon was present at a meeting of hospital management and the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, where discussions were held on the closure of two operating theatres at Merlin Park.

  “This is the biggest theatre complex outside Dublin and carries out 60-70 elective orthopaedic procedures every week,” explained Cllr. Fallon.  

  “The priority now is to get two temporary mobile theatres in place and I am calling for everyone involved from HSE estates, the orthopaedic consultants, the Minister for Health, Galway County Council and the fire services to do everything within their power to get these up and running as soon as possible.

  “The consultants have suggested that these should be in place by the 2nd January 2018 and with elective surgeries now cancelled and additional patients being referred by GPs on a weekly basis, it is vital that this date is met.”

  Cllr. Fallon added that he was “surprised” to learn that the theatre in Roscommon Hospital, which has spare capacity, “wasn’t deemed to be suitable as a replacement” despite consultants’ willingness to travel to carry out surgeries elsewhere.


News...at a glance - October 20th

Give blood in Castlerea

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service’s mobile unit will be visiting The Enterprise Hub, Castlerea on Tuesday, November 7th from 5 pm to 8.30 pm. This is an opportunity to donate blood, which will help the service to help others. All support is greatly appreciated.

Have you been affected by cancer? Support Group available

Vita House are hosting a support group for anyone whose life has been affected by cancer in some way (past or present). Come along and offer your ideas on how we can support you in a group environment. First session will take place at Vita House on Tuesday, the 24th of October at 7 pm.

RSPCA fundraiser

Roscommon Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is holding its annual Street Collection in Castlerea on Friday 20th & Saturday 21st of October 2017.

  Your help will be greatly appreciated. All money raised goes directly to animal welfare in Roscommon.

Fundraising Raffle

Athleague Apostolic Workers are holding their Annual Fundraiser/Raffle in aid of the Missions on Sunday next (October 22nd) in the Community Centre after 10 o’clock Mass.

  Donations of cakes/tarts/jams, etc. will be gratefully accepted at the centre on Saturday, October 21st from 3 pm to 5 pm. Raffle will take place on Sunday. Lines cost €2 each, or you can get three for €5. 

  Prizes – 1st: Hamper sponsored by Martin Conneally; 2nd: €100; 3rd: Bottle of Brandy plus other prizes.

  All money will go directly to the Missions and your support will be greatly appreciated.

Naughten welcomes Jadotville medals

Local Minister Denis Naughten has welcomed the decision to award the ‘Jadotville Medal’ to the soldiers of A Company, 35th Infantry Battalion, at Custume Barracks in Athlone on the 2nd of December.

  This comes after Minister Naughten’s decade-long campaign to give proper recognition to the Jadotville soldiers.

  The medal will honour the actions of the soldiers during the siege at Jadotville in September 1961 during the UN peacekeeping operation in the Congo.

Trad for Trocaire in The Tower

There will be another music and singing session at The Tower Inn, Elphin on Sunday, October 29th in aid of Trocaire.  ‘Trad for Trocaire’ has proven to be a popular event and so the organisers took the decision to host this second event following the success of the first. The junior session will take place at 7 pm while the senior session will follow at 9 pm.

Trocaire would like to thank all those who attended the first session and hope to see a similar turnout on the 29th to support this worthy cause. Trocaire also thanks the Roscommon People newspaper for its continued support.

Mass in Donamon in memory of Fr Brendan

Fr. Brendan Casey was all of 44 years of age when he won a County Senior Hurling medal with Athleague in 1975 (see our photograph). A native of Co. Clare, Fr. Brendan served in Donamon from 1971. He was involved in the setting up of Oran Camogie Club. A keen hurler, he came off the bench – at 44 – to help Athleague to that county title win. 
Fr. Brendan SVD died last year and is still very fondly remembered in this area. Athleague Hurling Club have organised a special first anniversary Mass for Fr. Brendan, which will be celebrated at Donamon Castle on this Friday evening, 20th of October (7 pm). All are welcome.


The People's Debate: Budget Week






This week, Roscommon’s locally-owned community newspaper, the Roscommon People, introduces an occasional series in which we gauge the mood of the public. On Wednesday, Roscommon People Editor PAUL HEALY sat down with his three guests…and chatted about The Budget, challenges facing Roscommon…and anything else that came up…


Our guests...

Kathleen Shanagher

Kathleen Shanagher is long-time Chairperson of Roscommon Tidy Towns Association and an Independent member of Roscommon County Council

Sean Mahon

Sean Mahon, a solicitor based in Roscommon Town, is the current President of Roscommon Chamber of Commerce

Eamonn Gleeson

Eamonn Gleeson is a well-known businessman. Eamonn and his wife Mary are proprietors of Gleeson’s Townhouse & Restaurant, The Square, Roscommon


PH: I’d like to know what you thought about the Budget this week…and also about the challenges facing the town and county…

Sean Mahon (SM): It was a fairly neutral Budget, which is as good as you can hope for. Normally you’d be giving out about something. In this instance you want to see them maintaining a degree of control over public finances and not getting into a situation where they’re spending money that they don’t necessarily have. But I would have preferred to have seen more done in relation to concerns over Brexit – and also on housing.

  I know there was a loan introduced (on Brexit) for small and medium sized enterprises with a specific focus on food…

Eamonn Gleeson (EG): A drop in the ocean.

SM: Tourism and the food or hospitality industry are the two areas that are going to be most affected by Brexit in this region. Fair enough they maintained the reduced VAT rate in respect of the hospitality sector. Even that isn’t going to be sufficient to counter the impact of Brexit. More could have been done on housing. I’m surprised at the lack of take-up on the Repair & Lease Scheme. It allows means-tested landlords to get a repeatable grant of up to €40,000 to repair property for long-term letting for social housing. The grant is repaid to the Council over the life of the lease. It should not be means-tested, I feel. The property owner has the cost of the repairs met up front by the Council and the Council gets a housing unit provided and the money is paid back to the local authority. A win-win situation.

EG: In the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s the Councils built housing. They abandoned that in favour of the private developers. 

  Another thing I’d like to address is the minimum wage. I have no problem with the minimum wage, but I don’t think it should be taxed at all. Why should there be a USC in it?

  As I’ve said in public recently, I don’t think enough is being done for tourism in the Midlands. Brexit is a big concern. The Midlands depends on tourism. The Americans will still come in, because of the family connections.

  Talking of tax, I’d have no problem with a 5% city tax on accommodation. They have it in every country in Europe.

SM: The cities are booming.

Kathleen Shanagher (KS): We need to attract people to Roscommon, even on day trips. Do you get positive feedback from people who come here, Eamonn?

EG: I met people from Tuam here this time last year. I asked them what they were doing in Roscommon, the reason for their visit. They said ‘shopping.’ I said ‘what?’ They explained that it takes them 40 minutes to get to Galway…when they get there it’s hassle, parking, charges. It’s 55 minutes to Roscommon for them…and it’s a great town. You have the big shops here but your town centre is still intact.

KS: The amount of people who come into Roscommon town and they feel they just have to stop and say to someone ‘your town centre is so great.’ The flowers, the shops, the people…we need to promote it. The free parking is a huge thing.

PH: Is the free parking secure?

KS: Absolutely.

PH: No risk to it?

KS: No risk. I know in other towns the Council is getting the one euro or fifty cent or whatever and it’s going back into the town – and that’s not happening here – but look at the footfall. We’re getting the people, you can’t buy that. 

EG: Look at Longford, look at all the closed doors on its Main Street and think of all the rates that are being lost.

SM: You’d have to think at this stage that everyone, including the Council, has fully bought into the free parking.

KS: I met so many people at the Food Festival in Lanesboro last weekend and they said ‘Oh yes we know Roscommon, we go there for the people and the shops and the free parking.’ And the restaurants! They said the people of Roscommon are so friendly when you meet them on the streets. They mention the ‘fruit & veg’ people!

Job creation

PH: The Food Festival in Ballyleague/Lanesboro was a big success. Is the answer to rural Ireland’s difficulties this type of bottom-up approach from communities? As opposed to relying on Central Government?

KS: Absolutely. When myself and Cllr. Orla Leyden attended the Bank of Ireland Enterprise Town event there, we were blown away by what the community in Ballyleague and Lanesboro are doing together.

SM: We can’t discount Government. Unless you have significant capital spend in the regions, you won’t have development. The increased capital spending being spoken of has to be targeted at the regions. They talk of balanced regional development. We’re 20, 30 years behind the Greater Dublin area. We need that imbalance addressed. We offer a solution to the east coast. They can’t see that.

PH: Do you feel that Central Government, the State agencies, our Oireachtas members, are doing enough to create jobs in Roscommon town – and county? What about the elusive Moss Vision jobs (50 jobs announced two years ago; not yet realised)? 

EG: I don’t know what’s going on with that project. They’re out on site the last two years. The guys (on site) that I’ve spoken to are very positive about Roscommon…

KS: It’s very strange (the lack of news on the Moss Vision jobs). There was so much talk about it. It’s a bit of a joke at this stage. 

PH: Sean, have the Chamber of Commerce got a hotline to our Oireachtas people on it?

SM: No, we have no news on it. I have spoken to Denis Naughten on two issues recently; broadband and the plans for an Innovation Centre in Roscommon. 

PH: What’s the feedback from the business community and the public generally regarding broadband?

EG: Broadband is not too bad in the town.

SM: I’d expect you to say it’s excellent, Eamonn. Well, in the core of the town…

KS: On jobs, we need to see something happening.
  We had a delegation here from Rhode Island recently. They were very impressed with Roscommon town, with the schools, the town centre, the facilities. When Maurice Buckley (now OPW Chairman) was involved with IBAL (Irish Business Against Litter) he used to say that if any business person could pick anywhere in Ireland to start a business and they just came to Roscommon they should choose here! It’s about what that business person who may be thinking of locating here can offer their staff. It’s our quality of life.

EG: Who makes decisions about factories moving to a town? The CEO’s wife or husband! It is about what the town can offer the employees.

KS: The county now has a high profile with regard to Tidy Towns and IBAL. That shows community pride.

EG: Speaking of the town, Denis Naughten announced yesterday evening that there will be an extension of the Hospital hours.

KS: Great news.

SM: We can produce all these glossy brochures to promote the town but unless there’s somebody driving it…we are in a better position than we have been for years now because we have a presence at the Cabinet table. We should be having more visits now from investors.

PH: What’s the update on this proposed Innovation Centre?

SM: The Innovation Centre will be located on the Circular Road (beside the Arts Centre). Application for funding is in. When it’s completed, it will be a hub…you’ll have hotdesks, high speed broadband, areas for small enterprises. We’ll encourage and cultivate businesses to go in there…from the locality but also from other areas.

KS: We need to sell the town. The Innovation Centre will be on the ‘tour of the town.’ It will be for start-ups; they will then move on and out. It’s to get the College graduates back.

Rural Ireland

PH: Do you despair for the future of our smaller towns and villages, especially when you see post offices under threat, transport cutbacks, businesses closing?

EG: Yes – with the advent of online shopping. The future for villages is residential. The post offices are not being used.

SM: Yes, but I think there is a role for them. The postal service is a reducing service but the infrastructure itself can be a hub for any community. A building like that which is staffed, heated…I would envisage you could use it for many reasons. Even having a cup of tea or coffee.

EG: Yeah…and as a drop-off point for your online shopping! Shopping centres in America are now under threat (due to online shopping).

KS: The whole emphasis now is on people becoming computer literate. But what is that causing, all this shopping online? I’ve heard retailers saying people are going into their shops…trying on clothes…dirtying their clothes…

SM: Taking screenshots…

EG: I saw an RTE report which claimed that millennials actually resent shopping (in the traditional way). They see shops as exercise runs for retired people! They haven’t got the time…

SM: Our own shops need to put their stuff on their own websites. They can still offer a better service. 

KS: I love the interaction in town. I couldn’t warm to online shopping. It’s a joy to actually go into the shops!

SM: I want to go into the shops as well. Our generation does!



Stamping on rural Ireland!


Local politicians react to Stamp Duty blow


Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has described the announcement made in Tuesday’s Budget that Stamp Duty on commercial property and land would be subject to a new rate of 6% (up from 2%), as “a huge blow to Irish Agriculture” and that it would also “hit small rural businesses”.

  “As most people know it was announced in the Budget on Tuesday that the sale of commercial land would be subject to a new rate of 6%.

  “I (had) brought it to the attention of the Government that agricultural land would be included in this new situation and that was denied by the Minister,” he said.

  Deputy Fitzmaurice went on to say that he had received a call from Cllr. Ivan Connaughton, a local auctioneer, who had confirmed that agricultural land had indeed been included and would be subject to the new rate.

  Deputy Fitzmaurice added: “This will cost Irish agriculture €12 million in one year alone. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar might like to spend €5 million of that on his new communications unit but that kind of money cannot be found on the side of the road.”

  As for small rural businesses, Deputy Fitzmaurice said: “There are many politicians from all parties and none going around the country to towns and villages trying to get people to buy into businesses and to get employment going. 

  “I wanted to raise an amendment that if a person bought such a building and opened it in 6 or 9 months and employed people that they would get the stamp duty returned down to the 2% rate. It would be a boost to rural Ireland but that was not acceptable.”

  Deputy Fitzmaurice had, he said, introduced an amendment to the Dáil on Tuesday night that if land was bought for farming purposes and a declaration that it would only be used for that purpose for five years received, then the rate for the land in question would remain at 2%.

  “I expected that (that) amendment would have been supported by all sides of the house but unfortunately the Government did the usual and spun the story referring to state aid rules which was nonsense.”

  Fitzmaurice accused Fianna Fáil of “sitting on their hands” when the issue was put to a vote and said that the only hope now was to tackle the issue “with all he could muster” following the publication of the Finance Bill and ensure that the matter goes to a vote once more.

  Cllr. Ivan Connaughton agreed that the new rate was a “serious blow to the farming community and rural Ireland.”

  Speaking to the Roscommon People yesterday (Wednesday), Cllr. Connaughton said: “It flies in the face of a recovery plan for rural Ireland where our towns and villages are struggling to get off the ground and the importance of agriculture is often under-estimated.

  “During the course of the day (Tuesday), I spoke to numerous TDs and Senators, with many of them not realising that commercial stamp duty included agricultural land. This is worrying as they are the legislators we elected to represent us in both Dáil and Seanad Éireann.

  “Indeed, the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed at a press conference organised by Agri-land after the budget, is recorded as saying the increase from two to six percent would not include agricultural land.”

  Cllr. Connaughton went on to praise Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice for putting down an amendment in Dáil Eireann on Tuesday night.

  Cllr. Connaughton then took aim at both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and said that this new rate would be to the detriment of rural Ireland.

  “Neither Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil want an election and will vote anything through Dáil Éireann at present. I really hope that common sense prevails and the decision is reversed in the coming weeks.

  “It will be thrown out there that I am an auctioneer and lobbying on behalf of that profession, that stamp duty rates for agricultural land were higher ten years ago and extra finance is required to fund Irish Water due to the (decision on) domestic water charges but I can assure you this increase will be to the demise of rural Ireland and that is why I will continue to make representation to all politicians to ensure this measure is reversed.”

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