‘Trying to depict us as rednecks’

Saving Roscommon is a messy business when you are up against powerful forces. That’s the view of at least some of the key campaigners behind the fierce, brilliant fightback against any threat to the boundary of South Roscommon. The public have put their collective shoulders to the wheel in a massive show of support for the ‘Save Roscommon’ campaign.

  When Roscommon Chamber of Commerce reported receipt of over 1,000 submissions this week, they wryly added: “none in favour.”

  The precise number of submissions dispatched to Westmeath County Council’s HQ in Mullingar will be confirmed in the comings days – it could be up to 30,000.

  Meanwhile, as the battle rages, my sources tell me that the ‘Save Roscommon’ campaigners are less than impressed with the tactics used by those ‘in authority’ who are pushing for change.

  The allegation is that the ‘powers-that-be’ are trying to “trivialise, diminish and marginalise” the arguments being made by the ‘Save Roscommon’ campaigners. The advocates for change are concentrating on the ‘GAA angle’ and – says a Save Roscommon source – “trying to depict us as country rednecks who are only worried that Clann na nGael and St Brigid’s will end up playing in Westmeath.”

  This focus on the ‘no change’ side’s references to GAA clubs has been pounced upon, even ridiculed, by others, my source says.

  “They are using it as a diversionary tactic. In actual fact, what we want to focus on, what this is really about, is economic issues and social and community issues.

  “The reality is that €2.5m in taxes is involved here…€1.2m in commercial rates and the remainder in property and car tax.

  “People in South Roscommon have always had a warmth towards Athlone…they shop and socialise there. The economic well-being of Athlone can be assured through co-operation, not annexation.”

  My source went on to allege that the ‘no change’ side sees the “dead hand” of the IDA in all of this. My source added that an October 2012 Government document ‘Putting People First’ had outlined a vision of such border areas being controlled by “Joint Authority or a detailed Services Level Agreement.”

  “What,” asked my source, “has changed?”

  It is clear that the people involved in the ‘Save Roscommon’ campaign have very little, if any, trust in those who are countenancing border change and the potential loss of 30 sq. km. of South Roscommon to Westmeath.

  This, they would say, is not a clean fight, and not a very fair one. They speak of mischevious tactics, of hidden agendas, of disingenuous arguments being made across the media.

  The campaigners are hugely heartened by the public’s response.

  Saving Roscommon is a messy, difficult business, but the campaigners and their thousands of supporters feel that people power is on the verge of defeating the powers-that-be.