There are fears that Nenagh town could suffer following the election of just two councillors on to the new Nenagh Municipal District Council.
The council comprises nine members, with only Cllr Seamus Morris and Cllr Hughie McGrath coming from the town. The remaining six are either from the old Newport area - Cllr Mattie Ryan “Coole”, Cllr Fiona Bonfield, Cllr Phyll Bugler, Cllr John Carroll, or from Lower Ormond - Cllr Michael O’Meara, Cllr Joe Hannigan, Cllr Ger Darcy. Cllr Carroll, Kilcoleman, is based in the Newport area, but would be the next closest councillor to the town.
Cllr Seamus Morris said that while he was delighted that he and Cllr McGrath had been elected he remained very concerned about all of the councilors’ ability to represent such a huge and diverse area.
“The loss of Nenagh Town Council will only be seen at the next budget meeting when services and grants will have to be slashed when the whole county has to fight for a smaller pot due to the upcoming local government budgetary crises created by the theft of the local government fund grants to all councils.
“As the new representatives are spread so thinly, representing Nenagh will undoubtedly be a huge task for Cllr McGrath and me. Nenagh has lost very experienced public representatives with the loss of the town council, but also our rates base is going to be spread more thinly as is our discretionary funding, and all of this without a whimper, which makes me very sad. I am certainly up for the battle, and believe I will be increasing my team as my party increases popularity. I look forward to representing the local area on the new Tipperary council,” he said.
Cllr McGrath said that the lack of a third town councillor was reflected in the figures as the voting percentage showed the town had not come out to vote.
“They have placed a burden on Cllr Morris and myself,” he said, “but I am going to step up to the mark.”
Cllr McGrath also raised fears about the town getting its fair share of the next budget, pointing that the problem it faced was that other towns in the area also had their own festivals and St Patrick’s Day parade.
He also lamented the loss of the town council saying: “The focus of Nenagh Town Council was on community projects and I am worried that we may now not have the same focus. Rural councillors will have their own focus.”
The Independent councillor also said they would need to be very conscious that Nenagh would not be seen as a revenue raising place as the town centre could not afford to sustain any increases in car parking charges.
“The town is lucky to have the second councillor,” said former town councillor Lalor McGee. “They can be out-voted now on anything.”
He said the reality was that events such as the town’s St Patrick’s Day parade would now have to compete for funding with Borrisokane and Newport and Spleodar would face opposition from Terryglass Arts Festival.
“I have concerns that funding for town groups won’t be protected. Two councillors can’t look after every club and committee in the town,” he said.
He also feared that rural councillors would look to Nenagh to raise revenue by increasing parking charges to gather funds for their own areas.
Fears were also expressed by Virginia O’Dowd, who said Cllr Morris and Cllr McGrath were going to have their work cut out for them to maintain and develop the town.
“The reality is those councillors elected in rural areas won’t have the same focus on Nenagh town and the town centre. On the old Nenagh / Newport area council, the town was seldom if ever raised,” she said.
An FG party source said that while they wouldn’t want to cast aspersions on any of the councillors, there was always the fear that the focus would switch away from the town once the town council was abolished.