Drogheda Councillors and representatives of the Drogheda City Status Group at their meeting in the Barbican Centre on Friday.
The last few days may well go down in the history of the greater Drogheda area as a turning point on the path of its economic and political development, the start of a brand new chapter which the people have been to the fore in achieving.
On Friday a significant step was taken on the long and often arduous journey to get the Boyneside Trail Greenway extended from Drogheda to Mornington; on Saturday Councillors agreed to invite the new Minister for housing to Drogheda to discuss achieving city status for the area, and it seems more than likely that the pedestrianisation of a section of West Street from Duke Street to the Tholsel will be agreed at the Borough District meeting later today.
Last September the Drogheda Councillors were told that officials from Louth County Council were in discussions with their counterparts in Meath on the Greenway which was first proposed by a dedicated and hard working committee of local people some 12 years ago.
Since then however, work on the planning and design of the greenway has been stalled because a formal document called a Section 85 agreement, which is needed to allow Councils to work together, only arrived in the Meath County Council offices on Friday. Hopefully they can now begin make up for lost time.
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On Saturday last, July 4, another little bit of local history was made and once again it came about as a result of the hard work and dogged determination of a group of people with a dream.
The Drogheda City Status Group (DCSG), which has been campaigning for over a decade to have Drogheda and East Meath recognised as a city with its own City Council and the many other benefits of city status, was invited to meet the Mayor Kevin Callan and the other Drogheda Councillors to discuss how best to progress the aim of setting the area on course for a brighter future in terms of employment and economic development.
Key targets of the campaign are to get the much heralded Port Access Northern Cross Route project over the line which in itself would go a long way to solving the housing crisis in the region, take pressure off the chaotic traffic in the urban area and attract increased investment.
Councillor Callan welcomed Anna McKenna and Brian Hanratty of DCSG saying: “If we work with groups such as City Status we’ll probably be in a better place in a year’s time.”
Anna McKenna gave a brief account of the group’s activities since its formation in 2009 including the many meetings they have had with TD’s , Ministers and MEP’s and even the Orange Order.
“I believe Drogheda’s time has come and feel that this is the year when we will get some reward for our efforts” she said.
“The new Taoiseach Micheál Martin recognised that Drogheda should be a city on his visit just before the elections and we hope to meet with the new Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien in the very near future.
She pleaded with the Mayor and Councillors from Drogheda and East Meath to push the case for Drogheda’s elevation to city status as urgent.
“I have great faith in this Council and I trust that you will work together to achieve city status and the appropriate administration that goes with it” she told the councillors. “The citizens of Drogheda need and want your leadership” she added.
One of Anna’s DCSG colleagues, Brian Hanratty, told the meeting of his vision of Drogheda as a regional growth centre.
He said that during the covid lockdown many people who had become used to commuting for several hours a day had got a taste for working from home and predicted that many of them would be reluctant to return to their former commute opting instead for a blend of office and home working, say three days at home and two in the office.
Mr. Hanratty identified the Port Access Northern Cross Route as the most critical stone in Drogheda’s future but also said it was imperative to get both the IDA and Enterprise Ireland working to greater effect in the Drogheda area.
“Drogheda is the biggest urban centre in the North East and we need our own local government” he said. “It’s time for an action plan for local jobs.”
Councillor Kevin Callan suggested that they seek a meeting with the newly appointed Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, which would also include the Councillors from East Meath.
Councillor James Byrne said that he had already broached the subject with Darragh O’Brien and had been reassured that there was a key commitment in the Fianna Fail manifesto to devolving more power to local authorities.
“It is important to engage with our colleagues in East Meath” he said but questioned whether or not they would want to be part of Drogheda City.
Anna McKenna assured him that East Meath Councillors were all looking forward to meeting their colleagues in Louth and all of them had signed a petition to that effect.
Sinn Fein Councillor Joanna Byrne said that the meeting was one of the most positive she had ever attended. “This is the way we should be tackling local issues, this cross party approach is the way to go” she said, adding that she’d love to see Minister Darragh O’Brien meeting with the group.
“Let’s get a meeting organised with the East Meath Councillors and together give a bit of a nudge to the decision makers” she said.
Speaking immediately after the meeting, Independent Councillor Paddy McQuillan said he was heartened to see the cross-party forum of local councillors of all political persuasions coming to agreement for the greater good of Drogheda.
“This is a sign that politics can be done in a different way at the local level” he said, “we should move forward on this issue”.
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