Minister of State with special responsibility for Local Government and Electoral Reform, John Paul Phelan (2nd from right) with Cllr. Richie Culhane, Deputy Fergus O’Dowd, Garrett O’Dowd and Cllr. Oliver Tully during his visit to Drogheda yesterday.
The Minister of State with special responsibility for Local Government and Electoral Reform, John Paul Phelan, has told Drogheda Life that he is “a firm supporter” of the extension of the living cities initiative to more urban centres and will be pursuing a return to a more urban based form of local government for large centres such as Drogheda.
The Minister visited Drogheda yesterday and was given a first-hand view of the issues facing the town, including the need for City Status, the Living City Initiative and the restoration of the Borough Council, by his Fine Gael colleague Fergus O'Dowd, TD.
O'Dowd said "The Minister prioritised his first official trip, outside of his constituency, to visit Drogheda and get to grips with Ireland's largest town and it’s unique position in having one of the largest catchments in the country and having no direct town council to hold decision makers to account."
Minister Phelan told Drogheda Life that he is always struck by the impressive and compact nature of the centre of Drogheda. “Very few other provincial towns can boast such fine large buildings” he said, “but this poses problems too in terms of developing the centre.”
He said that he is “a firm supporter” of the extension of the living cities initiative to more urban centres and will be pursuing a return to a more urban based form of local government for large centres such as Drogheda.
“How this will fit in with the existing local authority network and indeed what it would be called are not finalised yet, but I do believe that in terms of more local decision making and civic pride that this is important.
“As regards the application for city status there has not been one formally made that I'm aware of and I'd need to discuss same with my senior colleague Minister Murphy.”
Fine Gael Cllr and Deputy Mayor Richie Culhane, outgoing Fine Gael Mayor Cllr Oliver Tully and Drogheda Young Fine Gael Chairperson Garret O'Dowd, all joined Deputy O'Dowd and Minister Phelan on what could prove to be an extremely important day for the town.
"With the current review of Local Government expected later in the year, there has never been a more important time in addressing Drogheda's future. We have been neglected on a national and local decision making front for decades now" O'Dowd said.
"We have a massive opportunity to revitalise Drogheda's town centre with incentivising schemes to entice people to return and live in the town centre. This would have a massive spin off effect on local business in the town, it would also make the town more inviting and welcoming during the evening hours and give people the opportunity for secure housing that is close to amenities and resources."
"We finished the trip by meeting County Council officials in Drogheda Council buildings on Fair Street to discuss the council's vision and plan for the rejuvenation of the Narrow West Street area and how direct incentives to owners would be supported by positive planning decisions."
Cllr. Richie Culhane said "I'm delighted the Minister has visited the town and got a grasp of our unique situation, I feel as Councillors we have become disenfranchised by the lack of direct resources available to us. I feel as a priority we need the restoration of the Drogheda Borough Council to bring back the decision making powers to the people of the town."
Cllr. Oliver Tully added "Minister Phelan is a very welcome visitor to our wonderful historic town. I feel he is listening to our concerns and as I have said to him directly, we need to focus on re-populating the town centre by directly incentivising owners to renovate and populate their vacant offices or units."