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Local Papers Commentary
Connaught Telegraph 2 July 2003
By The Jaundiced Eye
9, Jul 2003 - 09:14

Chambers takes the Chamber

The Connaught covers the election to the chair of the County Council with the Tallyman and Tom Kelly providing coverage and comment. Councillor Frank Chambers has been elected cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council for the first time. The Newport-based Fianna Fail member, who was first elected to the authority in 1979, succeeded Councillor Tim Quinn in the prestigious 50,000 euro per annum role. Chambers defeated Councillor Flannery of Fine Gael in a contested election for the position.

It seems the old "your turn, our turn" rotating chair in the council chamber is gone and Chambers is the new chamber boss. Fierce recriminations altogether because neither Finn, an independent, nor the Sinn Fein member voted Fine Gael in support of poor old Flannery (who to my eye an ear is more a Fianna Fail member than a Fine Gael member in the first place). Michael Ring is reported as saying they must have promised him (Finn) a lot because what we [Fine Gael] offered him was an awful lot. Ah but we know that FF are very good ‘promisers’ now don’t we after the last election? They FF made Finn leas-cathaoirleach, however, so even if his pay is only a fraction of the 50 grand that Chambers will now get it’s not bad payback for the support - but maybe there's no pay for the vice-chair at all?

Chambers in his acceptance speech mentioned the CPO for new road for the 30km stretch from the end of the Swinford bypass to the Roscommon border – music to my ears. Not so sure though about the enthusiasm for the Ballina-Bohola road, which is due to start and will cut another bridge through the River Moy.

Unfortunately Chambers, an auctioneer, also mentioned the need for the dreaded rural housing as a strong priority – at least that’s the way I read it but perhaps I am wrong. He couldn’t really promote his own trade could he when steering decisions through the chamber at Aras an Chontae? Am I really so jaundiced that I detect conflict of interest in such an innocent thing as a professional auctioneer in charge of the planning authority as the highest, elected representative earning 50,000 euros per annum as County Council chairman? Naw! The auctioneer chairing the highest decision making body in the County wanting to promote the building of houses in rural areas? I am sure he will absent himself from planning decisions that would affect his future business. I am sure he is also against the destruction of hedges with their rich biodiversity? I am certain he favours proper treatment plants rather than septic tanks? And of course he advocates controlled town and village developments rather than ribbon development and that scattered rural dwellings all over the place are anathema to him? And would he, an estate agent, ever take business from a farmer who simply wants to make a few bucks by selling off a plot or maybe even three plots along the access road? Ditto for his also-auctioneering sidekick Richard Finn? How many of the boys on Mayo County Council are auctioneers anyway?

To end on a ‘nice’ note though, the new chairman also mentioned support for the disabled as a priority given his 10 week lay-up following a car accident before the last general election which undoubtedly lost him a seat in the Senate if not the Dail.

30,000 sign West-on-Track petitionThe Connaught this week reports on the recent campaign to reopen the western rail corridor. The target of 10,000 signatures was overwhelmingly exceeded as 30,000 people signed the West-on-Track petition. West-On-Track is a community-based campaign in the towns, villages and cities of the West of Ireland aimed at re-opening the Western Rail Corridor, a passenger and freight railway line which runs from Sligo to Limerick.

The West’s awake but are 'they' listening? To anyone in the Castlebar who has ever tried to get to Cork by rail the Western rail corridor makes enormous sense. For decades it has been two sides of the triangle when one would do. As you walk up and down the platform in Portarlington you realise that you you are only 40 minutes from Dublin but almost three hours from Cork when you should be almost at your destination.  Ditto for Limerick and Galway – no sensible rail link and buses that generally favour the scenic route stopping here there and everywhere unless you have carefully selected the correct ‘express’ bus. When you think that in Spain you can go from Madrid to Cordoba - about twice the distance from Castlebar to Dublin - in roughly half the time it takes us to rail to Dublin you see how primitive our rail system is. And this is in comparison with a country that typically we superior Irish would view as being almost third world – a charming place we visit on holidays. Unfortunately Dublin Central.Gov types also view the West of Ireland in this way – a third world part of Ireland. (What would they do with a rail line? And sure it would cost too much.) The West is a place for the Dublin 4 Central.Gov types to visit on holiday and enjoy its primitive charms. They jam up our roads for most of the summer but release funds for rail lines? Naw!

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