As the population of Athenry increases and the town develops, Peter Feeney examines the effects that accompany rapid change.
Since I last wrote the only thing that has changed is the increased speed of the development. We have seen ground broken on two new major residential developments, the turning-on of the new water supply, the planning of a town sewerage scheme costing £12 m. for 2004 and the Town Development Plan by Galway Co. Council has passed through its latest stage and will soon be back in public view. All this points to a big population increase and a resulting challenge to everybody to develop community at the same pace.
In the last issue I mentioned the possibility of town commission status for Athenry. Since then, the new local Government Act has changed the system for medium sized towns. Town Commissions are now called Town Councils and each town has a mayor. Unfortunately, the population threshold for a Town Council has been raised to 7500 which rules Athenry out for the foreseeable future as the town’s population is still less than half that. So, we have to work through the present structure of the Co. Council. At a recent public meeting in the Community Hall attended by a number of councillors it was agreed that a group from Athenry Community Council, the ADC and the Heritage Company would meet the seven local councillors every second month to discuss Athenry’s needs. This is as close as we can get to having our own representative group at present and while it hasn’t official status l am sure it will prove very beneficial in the long run.
Athenry Community Council will hold it’s own elections during the summer and I would like to take this opportunity to ask everyone in the Athenry area of the parish to take part. The Community Council is directly elected and completely voluntary and depends for its effectiveness on the people who serve on it. There are some areas that have no representative at present and we are very anxious to remedy this situation for the next three terms.
Community Development on a large extent depends on linkage within the parish. Many areas within the town have established many active resident associations and it can be only of benefit to other areas to do likewise.
Some areas outside the town have the same type of organisations and these structures give both a representative role and a valuable social function in their area. They also provide a ready-made link to other organisations like the Community Council when issues arise that need a combined effort of all groups. Both the Community Council and the ADC would be very happy to provide details on the setting up of resident associations but at the end of the day all that is needed is a widespread willingness among residents to become involved.
Athenry has out grown its community facilities in recent years. In the sport area the parish does quiet well, thanks to the hard work of the clubs and the people’s willingness to contribute, but in terms of non-sporting facilities the area is very lacking. The present Community Hall on Clarke Street is inadequate both in terms of size and condition to serve a locality with the population of Athenry.
Plans for a new community centre were outlined in my last article – New Community Centre
Time and again a need for a children’s playground is raised and a local committee has been organised to tackle the problem. There have been meetings with the Co. Council and quite a bit of research has been done.
The major requirements are a site and insurance cover once the playground is operational. The community council and this local committee are getting together to get over these problems and hopefully we’ll have results in the short term. The present situation where parents have to take their children to Loughrea, Oranmore or Portumna is unacceptable.
Community development is on-going and rewarding both for those who take part and the locality. The results are not always visible but looking back over a generation it is amazing what has been achieved. Seeds sown today will yield a great harvest in years to come. At present we benefit greatly from property purchased by the Community Council in the 1970s.
Hopefully the same can be said of our decisions in the years to come.
Peter Feeney is the Chairman of Athenry Community Council, a local Farmer, a political Activist and a tireless Worker for the Athenry Community.
Written by Peter Feeney
Published here 19 Jul 2023 and originally published Summer 2002