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.