It is becoming increasingly obvious that for whatever reason, be it mismanagement or lack of funding, Drogheda is being let down by both local and central Government. More thought needs to be given to promoting Drogheda’s status from Ireland’s biggest town to Ireland’s newest city with it’s own City Council.
The creaking system is just not delivering for Ireland’s biggest town so perhaps it is time to consider establishing a new local authority specifically for Drogheda and perhaps including East Meath.
Geography may have a big role to play in this non delivery of vital services. Straddling the boundary of Meath and Louth as it does, means that Drogheda is on the periphery of the centres of power in both counties so it could be a case of “out of sight, out of mind” for officials in both Navan and Dundalk.
That is perhaps a little unkind to both sets of officials but even a passing glance is enough to tell that both County capitals are faring better than Drogheda which is bigger than either of them.
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Local government officials say they could do a lot more but they are being starved of funding which leaves them making promises and kicking stones along the road even if, as happened last week when Louth County Council CEO Joan Martin was asked about a park for the North side of Drogheda, she kicked the stone along the PANCR, a road that is not even built yet!.
But Central Government is also making a monumental mess of things. For example, in June 2015 four independent statutory committees were established to review local government boundaries in Athlone, Carlow, Drogheda and Waterford.
Acting on these Committees’ recommendations it was decided that Urban Area Committees would be introduced to ensure that proper channels were put in place for planning and development where an urban centre significantly straddles two local authority boundaries.
Although provisions to establish these Urban Area Committees were approved by Government and were included at Committee Stage of the Local Government Bill 2018, they were not passed in the Seanad and were subsequently dropped. You really couldn’t make it up.
The Drogheda City Status Group has been campaigning for a local administration for Drogheda as a new city for many years and with the publication yesterday of the results of Census 2022 which shows that Ireland’s population has exceeded five million for the first time since pre-Famine times and draws closer the prospect of Drogheda being declared Ireland’s next city, a status that would of course bring with it a City Council.
"Both Louth and Meath have shown population growth in excess of the national average,” said Anna McKenna, Chairperson of the Drogheda City Status Group (DCSG), adding “and when you extrapolate the very significant level of housing completions in the Greater Drogheda area since Census 2016, it is clear that there will be yet another significant increase in the local population when those details emerge in a few months’ time.”
Anna noted that this rapid growth has occurred despite the long delays encountered in finally commencing housing developments recently on the Port Access Northern Cross Road (PANCR), which will add further momentum to Drogheda’s growth in the next census.
“The PANCR plan goes further than delivering much needed housing. It will also open up a new access route to the Port of Drogheda from the M1 motorway, removing HGV traffic from central Drogheda where it currently creates traffic congestion; noise and air pollution and serious road safety risks,” said Anna.
National and Local Government need to urgently work with developers to deliver this much needed route, which will also create job opportunities.”
Anna continued “Government and its agencies cannot continue to ignore Drogheda. The days of Greater Drogheda being managed remotely from Dundalk and Navan have to end.
"We need a new locally based administration headed up by an official of Deputy County Manager rank to co-ordinate all local authority services in the Greater Drogheda area and reporting to a Greater Drogheda Municipal Authority that includes Councillors from Drogheda; East Meath and South Louth. As well as housing, Drogheda could currently be described as ‘an IDA jobs black-spot’ – we need substantial jobs created locally by both the Public and Private sector.”