McGreal welcomes changes on turf-cutting
I warmly welcome the lifting of regulations on turf-cutting as announced by Minister Jimmy Deenihan on January 15th. I want to pay tribute to the Minister for honouring the commitments he made to turf-cutters when he was appointed in 2011. The fact that turf-cutting will now be allowed on eight of nine NHA bogs in Co. Roscommon is a welcome commonsense decision. It should be remembered that the last Fianna Fail led Government had agreed to shut these bogs completely. This decision will benefit 376 turf-cutters in Co. Roscommon. In Co. Galway, 1374 turf-cutters will benefit on 21 bogs. I also welcome the indication under articles 6(3) and 6(4) of ‘National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan’ published recently that in certain circumstances turf-cutting may be allowed on SAC bogs.
Minister O’Dowd visits Lake O’Flynn Work is now almost complete on a wetlands park and outdoor recreational project at Lake O’Flynn, Ballinlough. The project comprises a number of scenic walking routes, outdoor exercise area, as well as lake shore board walks and fishing stands as well as an interpretation of local flora and fauna. The facility is planned as a local amenity and tourist attraction.
In 2009, Roscommon Co. Council approved a grant of €175,000 for the project which also benefitted from a big input from a locally managed FAS scheme. The state Fisheries Development Company, Inland Fisheries Ireland, were partners in this development by way of manpower and expertise. The project locally was co-ordinated by a local partnership committee led by
Roscommon County Council. This, I believe is an example of partnership with a lasting result that could be copied in many locations throughout Co. Roscommon. During the year, Minister for Fisheries Fergus O’Dowd visited Lake O’Flynn and expressed great interest in the way the local resources were being developed.
Cllr. Michael McGreal Carrick, Ballinlough, Co. Roscommon Tel: 094-9640079 • Mob. 087-9679507 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
January 2014 – New Year Newsletter I welcome you to this newsletter for New Year 2014. The New Year promises to be less difficult than the year gone by. The exit of the Troika and a reduction in emigration arising from the creation of 58,000 jobs last year gives reason for hope and confidence for the time ahead. This year will see County Council elections take place under a very different arrangement than what we have been used to. Following the passing of the Local Government Bill 2013 the County of Roscommon is being divided up into three new Municipal areas, with six council seats in each area. The total number of councillors has been reduced from twenty-six to eighteen. The new Municipal areas of Athlone, Boyle and Roscommon will have a range of reserved functions which will be performed at district level. It is planned that extra functions of Government which affect people at a local level will be devolved to the New Local Government structures. This Government initiative, entitled ‘Putting People First’, is the most radical overhaul of Local Government since 1898. As a councillor for a number of years, I certainly see a need for change and I do hope that the changes will lead to greater buoyancy and creativity in the way we do things in the county.
Cllr. Michael McGreal presenting a sponsorship cheque to Brigid Lynch at Granlahan Fair.
Pictured at Lake O’Flynn (back row, left to right): Gerry Markham, Co-ordinator, FAS Scheme; Brendan O’Mahony, Chairman, Inland Fisheries; Fergus O’Dowd, Minister for Fisheries; Cllr. Michael McGreal and Paddy McDermott. Front row, left to right: Ciaran Grogan, FAS supervisor; Michael Kelly, Ronan Kelly and Dominic Kelly.
New Council Offices gets go-ahead It is expected that work on the new Council Civic offices will commence in the first quarter of this year. The provision of these new offices comes after many years of discussions and procrastination and will now provide Roscommon with a Council HQ to the same standard as every other County Council in Ireland. In October 2007, a meeting of Roscommon County Council agreed to go ahead and tender for a new Corporate Headquarters which would be costing in the region of €35 million. These plans were then stopped by the then Fianna Fáil led Government. Officially the matter was ‘under review’ on an ongoing basis. As Mayor of Roscommon in the 2008/2009 period, I had several discussions with Dept. of Environment and Dept. of Finance officials with the hope of change, but this did not happen. I formed an opinion at that time that some ‘vested interests’ were not supportive of the project going ahead and were lobbying accordingly. In 2011, the new Minister for the Environment, Phil
Pictured at the national launch of The 2013 Gathering in Government Buildings were (left to right) Michael Ring, Minister of State for Tourism & Sport; George Jones, Chairman, IPB Insurance; Enda Kenny, Taoiseach; Cllr. Michael McGreal and Frank Dawson, Roscommon County Manager.
Most people agree that the Government ‘Gathering’ initiative during the past year was an undoubted success and lifted the morale of people at a critical time. It also empowered local communities to organise themselves into being part of the year’s activities. I am delighted that fifty-five community groups throughout the county took up this challenge. I am also very pleased by the leadership given by Roscommon County Council. Roscommon man, Jim Miley, who was appointed Project Director by the Government, also did an excellent job. The Gathering brought between 250-275,000 extra visitors to the country. It is estimated that this led to increased tourism revenue of €170 million.
New County Council Civic offices.
Hogan cleared the way for the new offices to go ahead. It is expected that up to 200 workers will be employed on the project for a period of one and a half years and then the people of Roscommon and the three Municipal areas will be served from a new modern and efficient set of offices. I wish the project well.
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One of the ‘Gatherings’ that caught most national attention was surely the one held by Kilteevan community. Owen Brennan, now aged 93, who was born in Kilteevan, emigrated to the United States in 1948 and married an American woman. Their son John was born in New Jersey and was appointed Head of the CIA by President Obama early last year. The return of the Brennan family to the Kilteevan community was a real example of the spirit of the Gathering 2013.
Kilteevan native Owen Brennan and his son John (now head of the CIA) are welcomed home by Eileen Fahey of the Kilteevan Gathering Committee.
New Sports Capital Grants The Government recently announced a new sport grant fund of €40 million. Eligible projects include pitch draining and improvement, floodlights, sport halls and dressing rooms. Applicants must register by 7th February. Closing date: February 27th 2014. Log on to www.sportscapitalprogramme.ie
New Roscommon Municipal Area The Local Area Boundary Committee established by the Government published its report on May 30th last year. To say the least, what transpired for County Roscommon came as a surprise to many. It was accepted that Co. Roscommon would not be easy to divide into two or three new areas, and various proposals were submitted to the Boundary Committee, including one from Roscommon County Council and twelve others. The final outcome was very different to anything proposed. The creation of three Municipal Areas was expected, but their configuration certainly was not. The new Roscommon Municipal Area now comprises a large area of the county which has in the past comprised the Castlerea, Strokestown and Roscommon electoral areas. The Committee Report states that the population of the new Roscommon Municipal Area is 22,867, or 3,811 persons per councillor. The numbers on the draft 2014 voting register for the area is 16,346. With approximately 70% voter turnout at the next local election, there would be a quota of about 1,640. This compares to
Pictured at the Fine Gael Selection Convention for the Roscommon Electoral Area were Donal Hayden, Seán Finan, Cllr. Michael McGreal, Imelda McGreal, Gerry Coffey, Marie Hayden, John Donegan and Martin Caulfield. Picture: Andrew Fox
quotas in the 2009 local elections as follows: Castlerea 1162 (Fine Gael 37%), Strokestown 1083 (Fine Gael 34%), Roscommon 1036 (Fine Gael 29%). The new set-up obviously poses new challenges. The area is certainly geographically larger than we have been used to. (It is over 40 miles from Cloonfad on the Roscommon/ Galway/Mayo border to the River Shannon at Ballyleague on the Roscommon/Longford border). The new area is made up of three
existing Council Engineering Areas and it is accepted that there will have to be some streamlining in this respect. The six councillors who will be elected in this area next May will, in the first instance, be members of the new Roscommon Municipal Area which will have a certain amount of local control over its own affairs. This is the first major overhaul of Local Government since 1898. The important thing is that it works well for the people of the county. I want to see that happen.
Pictured at the Fine Gael Selection Convention for the Roscommon Electoral Area were Frank Neenan, Cllr. Michael McGreal, Michael Brennan, Imelda McGreal, Francis Greene, Michael Kirrane and David Quinn. Picture: Andrew Fox
Castlerea Recycling Centre Up to close of business at 5 o’clock on 31st December last, a total of 1,438 customers availed of the services at Castlerea Civic Amenity during the year. The facility has proven to be a great success and I am pleased to have supported the idea of putting it there. The opposition to the provision of this facility was one of the more bizarre experiences of my political career. The project was opposed by a local development group who organised public meetings and canvassed all county councillors to vote against it. Roscommon County Council met on October 22nd 2007 and planning for the Civic Amenity site was first item on the
agenda. As I was the only councillor from the Castlerea area supporting it, I had to marshal the support of all my Fine Gael colleagues to do so also in the knowledge that they had been vigorously canvassed to block it. At the end of a long debate, my proposal to grant planning was carried by a total of fourteen votes to eight, with four abstentions. All ten Fine Gael councillors supported it, as well as three independents. The current Mayor of Roscommon, Councillor Martin Connaughton was the only Fianna Fáil councillor to vote for it. The facility is now considered amongst the best of its kind in the country and
Cllr. Michael McGreal pictured with the late Paddy Concannon.
Paddy Concannon, RIP
when I visit it I sometimes wonder ‘What was all the fuss about?!’ In May 2009, as Mayor of Roscommon, I had the pleasure of Roscommon opening the Herald Novem ber 2007. new facility.
Paddy Concannon, former Councillor in the Castlerea area, passed away in 2012 aged ninety-four. He was a member of Roscommon County Council for forty-six years (1945-1991). He was elected as a Clann na Talún representaive in 1945, 1950, 1955 and 1960. Following the wind-up of Clann na Talún, Paddy joined Fine Gael and was elected in 1967, 1974 and 1979. Unhappy with some of the social policies pursued by Garret Fitzgerald in the 1980s, he was elected as an Independent in 1985. I had the experience of serving with Paddy between 1985-1991. He was a most informed Public Representative with a fantastic memory of political events – local, national and international. In recent years, he was a most avid campaigner for the right of people to cut turf on their own bogs.
Councillor McGreal is confident that the Minister for Transport will support a fresh call from Roscommon Co. Council to upgrade the N61 to primary route status following motion agreed at December Council meeting.
Pictured at Cloonfad Heritage Weekend were Cllr. Michael McGreal; Gerard Hanberry, author of biography of Oscar Wilde and Nollaig Feeney, Heritage Officer, Roscommon County Council. In background is a GAA jersey presented to Cloonfad Gathering by the Earley family.