New Year, new opportunities
As the county continues to bounce back from two years of economic hardship due to the forced lockdowns following the outbreak of Covid-19, Dan Dooner asked three prominent residents for their perspective on how 2023 might pan out for local businesses and communities…
Castlerea businessman and Chairperson of the Enterprise Hub committee, Benny O’Connell, has said the town is on a high and looking forward to a successful 2023.
“Recent developments in Castlerea such as the works at Somers Park and funding for the Castlerea Enterprise Food Hub have been very positive,” he said.
“At the foundation of all this is the work of the Town Team and County Council in making the town look well. I always felt that this was the first thing that was needed in order to make it a more attractive place to work and do business in.
“As retailers we have to make an effort too because ‘Shop Local’ shouldn’t be automatic. If we have good offering then people are more likely to ‘Try Town First’”.
Looking ahead to what he hopes will be a positive year, Benny highlighted the sporting achievements of the O’Rourke sisters and said: “Action speaks louder than words and local volunteers have a major role to play in Castlerea and other rural towns.
“We’re also lucky in Castlerea to have employers like Harmac Medical and the local Mart underpinning the economy as well as our local councillor Paschal Fitzmaurice, who has done Trojan work for the town”.
Athleague-based auctioneer Ivan Connaughton says the ability to work from home and improved transport networks will make Roscommon an increasingly attractive proposition for those seeking to escape overcrowded cities.
“We are seeing that on a daily basis now and Covid-19 really changed the dynamic in terms of working from home,” he said.
“In Athleague we have a hot desk facility at the community centre for those looking to work from home and other rural towns and villages now have it too. There’s a place for people to go to access high-speed broadband and this is a huge opportunity for rural villages,” he said.
Ivan also believes high property prices in Irish cities have had a knock-on effect in Roscommon.
“The property market has pushed people towards living here in Roscommon and into the midlands and this is a huge boost,” he said.
“The key is having better train and bus services from rural areas to Dublin and Galway. We are lucky in Roscommon to have three major train lines and this enables people to commute”.
Meanwhile, Elphin County Councillor Valerie Byrne says her “glass is always half full” but believes North Roscommon has been let down by the Industrial Development Authority.
“I feel the IDA have let down Roscommon and especially North Roscommon. I’m sure there are lots of businesses out there that could be set up here,” she said.
“Roscommon is so central to everything…an hour and a half and you are in Galway or Dublin or one of three airports. We also have the infrastructure and it is regarded as a good place to live and rear children,” she said.
“We have to make the county an attractive place for businesses and that’s where Roscommon County Council comes in”.
Cllr Byrne said a reduction in the number of vacant properties in Elphin is a sign of progress but called on central Government to do more in terms of local infrastructure.
“I’m all for walkways and cycleways but it’s important not to forget about footpaths and roads in rural towns,” she said.
“Get local infrastructure right and the walkways and cycleways can then be the icing on the cake”.
Looking ahead to the coming year, the local councillor said she was hopeful.
“Hopefully there will be no more delays to the N5 project which will help to open up the north of the county. We’ve come through a few hard years and now it’s time to get businesses up and running again,” she said.
“It’s about having a good town that people are happy to come to. Working from home has been a positive development and it has kept some people in the countryside. These people are needed in the community for local groups and committees. Nothing happens in this country without the work of volunteers so that’s very important,” she concluded.