Roscommon jpg 002

Uproar as Ireland faces another partition

County Roscommon as it currently looks. A government proposal would lop off a portion of the southern part.

By Irish Echo Staff

A government plan to partition County Roscommon is causing uproar on both sides of the Shannon.
Almost 2,000 people gathered in the Athlone Springs Hotel in Monksland, County Roscommon, last week to voice their opposition to a government plan to partition Roscommon and switch a large swath of the county to neighboring Westmeath.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

If the move goes ahead it would not only mean a smaller Roscommon, but a transferring of part of the county’s population from Connacht to Leinster.

Last week’s meeting was organized by “Save Roscommon,” which describes itself as a grassroots community organization formed to oppose Alan Kelly, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government’s plan to annex a large part of South Roscommon to County Westmeath, “causing residents economic, social and cultural harm.”

According to a release from the group, Minister Kelly last year set up a three-man committee to produce a report demonstrating why a large portion of South Roscommon including Monksland (soon to be Roscommon’s largest town) Bealnamulla, Summerhill, Cloonakille, Drum, Derrynasee, Meehanbee, Curraghaleen, Rooskey Cross, Ballymulavill, Bogganfin, and Barrybeg should be taken away from County Roscommon and brought into County Westmeath.

The area in encompasses some 30 square kilometers - more than 7,500 acres - and would see County Roscommon losing up to 7,000 people – some 10 percent of its total population - to County Westmeath.
The controversial plans have sparked fury in County Roscommon with the “Save Roscommon” group saying the county would be “impoverished” by the plans from Dublin and that government was ignoring legislation which would give people a real say instead opting for outdated legislation to ensure decision-making powers rest exclusively with the minister.

“I was born in County Roscommon and I want to be buried in County Roscommon,” said Deputy Denis Naughten TD at the meeting.

“I am sick and tired of this proposal,” he said.

“This proposal is sucking the life out of Roscommon and the West of Ireland," the Bishop of Elphin, Kevin Doran, said.

Bishop Doran described the minister’s plan as “geographical nonsense.”

Local business leaders are also opposing the minister’s partition plan.

According to the release, speakers for “Save Roscommon” at the event included successful Roscommon businessmen John Killeen, who has been credited with twice bringing the Volvo Ocean race to Galway.
Declan Molloy, speaking on behalf of Roscommon Chamber of Commerce said: “Per capita, Roscommon sends more students to college than any other, but has less of them coming back than any other county. So we need Monksland.”

The county GAA was also supportive.

Seamus Sweeney, Chairman of the County Board, stated: “When the Rossies are needed they come out in force. We are from Connacht and will never be from Leinster.”

Sweeney said that every GAA club throughout the county was represented at the meeting. “Whatever the Save Roscommon group needs us to do, we will do,” he said.

There was even support from Westmeath.

A letter from Mullingar-based Fine Fail TD, Robert Troy, was read out which revealed he too was fundamentally opposed to the partition plan.

“I am writing to you as a Westmeath TD to state that I do not support the Minister’s recent proposals which the media are describing as state sanctioned plans to annex parts of County Roscommon,” Troy wrote.

“County borders are about identity, and I do not support stealing another county’s identity. In the same way that the people of my own county have a proud tradition and are proud to call themselves Westmeath people, I am sure the people of Roscommon hold these same values.”

The meeting closed, according to the release, with “a rousing rendition” of the County Roscommon anthem, “Land of the O’Connor” sung by Johnny Johnston.

Chairman of “Save Roscommon,” local councilor Tony Ward, concluded proceedings by saying that if people wanted their voices heard, “it is vitally important that people send submissions to government expressing their opposition to this partition of the county.

"And I would hope to see somewhere in the region of 15,000 submissions,” he said.