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    Wednesday, 20 May 2015

    Here's the link to my book project on HMS Mashona, the ship, officers and crew.

    If you can help please get in touch!

    Tuesday, 3 March 2015

    Former Labour Town Councillor, Keith Martin, has told the Mayo News that he feels "vindicated" by the U-Turn of Ministers Brendan Howlin and Alan Kelly in relation to the abolition of Town Councils.

    In May of last year the 80 town councils, including Westport, Castlebar and Ballina, were replaced by 137 municipal districts, with the membership and configuration determined at council level. The independent financial revenue-raising powers of town councils were lost and district councils are instead handed down annual financial allocations, irrespective of the amounts of money raised in each district.

    Speaking about the abolition of the town councils at the recent Labour Party Conference Minister Howlin told delegates “If you ask me what is the one thing I regret most about the last four years it was that decision and I personally say I took my eye off the ball."

    Mr Hogan’s successor in the Department of the Environment, Minister Alan Kelly, also indicated at the party’s weekend conference that he is unhappy with the changes telling a policy seminar that he was working on measures to rectify the situation.

    Mr Martin was a vocal opponent of the abolitions, both within the Labour Party and the Council chamber, and was part of a special cross-party delegation from Westport Town Council to Strasbourg to the 25th Congress of Local and Regional Authorities to lobby for the retention of town councils.

    "I feel totally vindicated that the Labour Party has finally realised what a terrible decision the abolition of our entire municipal system of government has been.  At the time I lobbied all Labour TDs to turn back from abolition.  I was not listened to at the time.  I only regret that the change of heart by the Ministers comes a year too late.  Westport has lost its council, its monthly meetings, its €5m annual budget, its bank savings of €3m, its Mayor, and we have lost the right to raise our own rates and taxes.  The town has also lost its right to grant planning permission, zone lands and we have also lost the housing section and our dedicated Town Engineer."

    Mr Martin says it is up ordinary voters and the likes of the Chamber of Commerce and organisations such as the Tidy Towns to lobby Ministers and TDs to get back their town councils adding " I would urge everyone in Westport, Castlebar and Ballina to join the fight to get back our local councils. It is now or never!"

    Friday, 7 February 2014

    After a decade of service on Westport Town Council I have decided that I will not be a candidate in the upcoming local elections.

    This is due to the abolition of Westport Town Council by the government, a decision that I have opposed since it was first mooted and a decision which I have fought in our council chamber in Westport and have brought my argument to the Oireachtas and even the Council of Europe.

    I believe that Westport owes much of its success as a centre for tourism, recreation, retail and heritage to Westport Town Council's role as a development agency over the last couple of decades and I believe it will be a disaster when the town is stripped of its council.

    The new electoral area, the West Mayo Municipal Council, will be a 'talking shop' without the power to strike a rate or set a budget, it will not have planning powers, or zoning powers or even staff of its own.  Instead it will function like a glorified local area committee of Mayo County Council, begging and borrowing what resources it can.

    All decisions concerning Westport Town, including how much of the ratepayers money is reinvested in Westport will be made in Castlebar by 30 members of Mayo County Council of which only 2 or 3 will be from the Westport area.  It's very easy to envisage Westport money being spent everywhere but in Westport.

    Worse again is that this "Municipal Council" will cover an area three times the size of County Louth with just 7 councillors meaning that "local" government will no longer be local.

    Westport without a town council will be down graded.  We have already seen our Tourist Office re-sized, we have lost our courthouse, we are losing our Joint Policing Committee, our Mayor and our financial independence.  Westport is looking at the reversal of 50 years of incredible progress, all because the loss of it's council.

    As a member of the Labour Party for 8 years I made it very clear from the start that if the government proceeded with the abolition of town councils that I would not allow my name to go forward.  It is a decision I stand by and that I proud of, and it is for that reason that I will not allow my name for go forward in 2014.

    I will serve out the remainder of my term as a loyal member of the Labour Party.

    I am very proud of my service on Westport Town Council.  I have served in some of the most challenging years dealing with the different challenges presented by boom and recession.

    I am delighted to have been involved in investing council money in social capital projects and to see how such council investment has paid off in areas like the Newport Road.  One only has to look at the replanting of the Northwoods and the Northern Greenway to see how such projects benefit the local residents.

    I am very proud of the council's work on the Golf Course Road.  In the 10 years I have spent on the council the Golf Course Road has been transformed.  Today it has a park, playground, football pitch, greenway, traffic and speed controls, and a world class primary school.

    Its council  built and funded Community Building provides playschools, after schools, homework clubs, foroige club, residents meeting rooms, evening classes and family fun days.

    Westport Town Council has also invested €100,000 in the new soccer club grounds on the Golf Course Road to ensure the people of the town have access to the playing fields.

    On a wider picture I am proud that Westport became the first town in Ireland to establish a film promotion policy which encourages and works with film makers to film in the area, a policy which generates jobs and publicity for the town.  I have always lobbied for Mayo to have its own film promotion unit and I hope to see developments there before I leave the council in June.  In that capacity I have worked for 10 years a volunteer with the Irish FIlm Board promoting Mayo and working with filmmakers.

    Westport Town Council is also investing €500,000 in a state of the art Town Hall and theatre and has finished completion of the Quay Community Building, an issue I first campaigned for in 2004.

    I am grateful to have been a member of the Multi Agency Group which lobbies and plans for Westport's infrastructure to create jobs and secure our tourism industry.  That committee has overseen fibre optic broadband and upgraded electricity supply come to Westport while it continues to lobby for improved road connections and IDA investment in our technology park.

    I am also proud of the town's successes under the Tidy Towns competitions and I have always played my part taking part in the Good Friday clean ups and on the regular rota for the tidy ups and I would encourage others to do like wise.

    One of the biggest challenges as a local councillor has been my role in establishing Westport Radio, the town's community radio service.  I am proud to be a founding member and current chairman of the station.

    Westport Town Council played a huge role by investing social capital in the station and we are starting to see the pay back on such investment as the station prepares to become a full time station.

    I have enjoyed working with people and helping them on so many issues. In the course of my role on the council I have fought many battles on many issues but I always separated the issue from the individual. I have always tried my best and if my best has fallen short of what people expected or if I have let people down or disappointed them then I am sorry.

    I am grateful to my family and friends who have always supported me, to the members and supporters of the Westport Branch who always believed in me; especially the late Michael Joe Lavelle.

    I am grateful to the council management and staff for their professionalism and hard work and I thank the councillors I served alongside in my 10 years for their help.

    In conclusion I would like to thank the people of Westport.  It has been an honour to serve.

    Wednesday, 5 February 2014

    Fwd: Press Release Tsunami preparations


    Westport Councillor Keith Martin is repeating his call on Mayo County Council to run an emergency drill as a preparation for a Tsunami hitting the Mayo Coast.

    Cllr Martin made his original call in June of 2012 following a magnitude 4.0 earthquake off the Mayo coast.

    Cllr Martin says "Given the recent flooding and damage to property by the recent storms and considering the large number of the low-lying settlements along the Mayo coast I am, again, calling on Mayo County Council to run an emergency drill to prepare in case Mayo is ever subject to a Tsunami strike.

    Cllr Keith Martin has written to Mayo County Council to request that an emergency drill be carried out to prepare the county’s emergency services for such an event.

    According to Cllr Martin there is a precedent for such a disaster as the Westport Historical Society’s Journal Cathair Na Mart records a large wave hitting Westport Quay in November 1909. The wave caused damage as it hit the Quay breaking the Quay wall and leaving large pieces of it strewn over the road to Rossbeg. The wave sent a wall of water four feet high up as far as the old railway station, which is now the Quay school.

    Cllr Martin says the events are described in the article “Tidal wave at Westport Quay” which details the memories of Michael J Lyons who was fifteen at the time. According to the report “Tons of timber were strewn about. Boats lay in the road.”

    Cllr Martin says “Experts now believe the wave was the result of the tectonic plates shifting far out in the Atlantic and this sent a mini-tsunami wave racing ashore at Westport. Fortunately the damage was minor but it should serve as a warning to prepare. The odds of a Tsunami hitting Westport or Mayo again must be millions to one but we should be prepared just as we would for an airplane or train crash or other such unlikely disasters. Mayo County Council regulary runs drills to practise for unlikely disasters such as train de-reailments and plane crashes. This tests the preparedness of the emergency services to cope with unlikely large-scale disasters.”

    Cllr Martin adds “We only have to look as the disasters in the Pacific to know how deadly water can be and we should not be complacent about such events. Towns like Westport and Newport are only feet above the sea level at their Quays and we should be prepared.”

    Wednesday, 29 January 2014

    Tuesday, 28 January 2014

    THE three town councils in Mayo which are scheduled to be axed next May have a total of €16.17 million on deposit, according to the latest local government audited information available.
    Yet Mayo County Council, which is being retained in Environment Minister Phil Hogan’s shake-up, has just €172,643 in reserve.
    Minister Hogan presented the figures in Dáil Éireann on foot of a parliamentary question. But it clearly undermines his decision to scrap town councils as a cash-saving measure.
    While the €16.17 million is expected to be transferred to the coffers of Mayo County Council following the 2014 local elections, there is no guarantee the money will be retained for provision of local services.
    The deposits held by the four local authorities in Mayo comprising of cash balances and short-term bank investments are as follows: Castlebar Town Council (€7,566,048), Westport Town Council (€4,970,930), Ballina Town Council (€3,646,517) and Mayo County Council (€172,643).
    It is clear there was no justification for abolishing town councils in the county for financial reasons.
    The figures are a cause for concern for Mayo County Council at a time when it is deep in debt.

    Saturday, 25 January 2014

    About Keith

    I was elected to Westport Town Council in 2004 as an Independent candidate.  I ran on several local issues of concern to the residents of my area and on some larger, town-wide issues.  I joined the Labour Party two years later because I realised my goals were in line with Labour’s.

    As part of my council work I attend one monthly meeting of the council, an annual budget meeting and many committee meetings in relation to council sub committees and events.

    In addition to this I serve on many local committees and groups such as Westport Community Radio which I helped to found three years ago.  I used my experience and position to make the case for funding and to date I have sourced €60,000 in funds for the station.

    In addition to this kind of work I have also helped to develop my locality.  When I was elected in 2003 my area of the Golf Course Road had no social facilities.  Today it has a greenway, a park, football pitch, playground , walkway and a primary school.  It also has a community building providing many classes and supports for children such as a crèche and homework club.

    On a wider scale I have used my position as a councillor to work with the Irish Film Board in promoting Westport and Mayo as a venue for film making both small and feature film productions and I soon hope to establish a county wide film board for Mayo.

    Shortly after my re-election in 2009 I was unable to complete paperwork relating to campaign spending due to a serious illness and when I missed the deadline I was automatically barred from taking my seat for 5 years.

    The only remedy was to go the Circuit Court where the Court ruled that the bar should be lifted due to my illness and I retook my seat on Westport Town Council.  I am the only person in the country to have had this bar overturned.

    Currently I am campaigning against the abolition of Town Councils.