By Isabelle Flanagan
People often use the phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, and I couldn’t agree more. When I was twelve, I lived in Brussels for a year and a half. I never realised how much Castlerea really meant to me until I left. Castlerea is an amazing place to live, but there is definitely a lot of potential that needs to be unlocked.
More power must be given to local authorities. We not only need County Councils, we also need Town Councils with real powers to make decisions. Currently there is virtually no public input into decisions that affect our lives. Instead they are made by faceless bureaucrats and rubber-stamped by powerless councillors.
More investments must be made into public transport and cycle infrastructure. When it comes to public transport we need more frequent services which would allow people to travel for work without the need of a car.
Adequate cycle infrastructure could transform Castlerea. Cycling is not only good for the environment but also for our health. Cycle lanes tackle pollution, reduce traffic congestion and boost the local economy. It really is a win-win!
Good quality internet connection nowadays is no longer a luxury but is essential. For people to participate in society it must be treated as essential. If everyone in Castlerea had access, more people would be able to work and study from home. The rollout of high quality broadband must be a priority.
Housing is a fundamental right. Historically, Castlerea has had relatively reasonable prices and supply was not usually an issue. However, rural places like Castlerea are now being impacted by the housing crisis. We must aim for our new housing stock to be affordable and integrated.
We need to move to a situation where 100 per cent of housing in Castlerea gets as close as possible to acceptable standards when it comes to insulation. I am aware this does not come cheap, however people must be given as much help as possible. In recent times, people have been noticing huge hikes in energy prices. From April 15th the average electricity bill will go up by 27 per cent. We should be producing our energy locally through solar panels on roofs of houses as well on schools and other public buildings. This way we can have control over costs, whereas currently we are like a cork bobbing around the ocean.
Our food should also be produced locally. Take for example Benny’s Deli in Castlerea where you can buy bread, cakes, jam, tarts, cheese, honey and many more products which are all made locally. Benny’s also stock ‘Black Donkey Beer’ which is made just out the road in Ballinlough. Another great business is Cloonconra Cheese, who produce fresh and mature farmhouse cheese from the milk of their herd of pedigree Irish moiled cows. Our money is much better spent in small local businesses as the money actually stays in our local economy instead of going to CEOs of big companies.
We are lucky to have four brilliant schools in Castlerea town. I would like to see a Castlerea where all of our schools are mixed and non-denominational. It is extremely outdated to split up children based on their gender. We live in such a diverse town, it would make much more sense for the children to learn about more than just one religion.
Biodiversity loss is a major problem for Ireland. One in every five of the species assessed in Ireland is threatened with extinction. We have a great asset in The Demesne and many other walkways in Castlerea. They, along with areas owned by the council, must be rewilded. We basically need much less mowing – not every single green space needs to look prim and proper. The use of pesticides and herbicides in public green spaces must be greatly reduced and alternatives used. We also need many more public bins to reduce litter.
Last but not least, anyone who has been ‘caught short’ will agree with the following observation. Public toilets are vital. People should not have to depend on private businesses to carry out the most basic human function. They should be seen as a public amenity. This certainly shouldn’t be treated as a luxury.