03 Jul 2022

Flaherty warns of 'huge challenges' facing county Longford

'Longford will be nothing like the county we see now in 20 years time'

Cll Joe Flaherty

Councillor Joe Flaherty with Council members and staff following his co-option to Longford County Council at the December meeting of the Council. Picture by Willie Farrell

Rural counties like Longford face becoming little more than economic “wastelands” unless greater credence is afforded to its “tired, weary and downbeaten” citizens.

They were among the sobering thoughts tabled by Longford County Council’s newest inductee, Joe Flaherty following his co-option last week.

Cllr Flaherty, who was formally ratified to fill the vacancy left by Padraig Loughrey in October, used his maiden speech to warn of the huge economic and social upheavals potentially facing Longford.

“I have no doubt the challenges facing Longford are immense,” he said.

“We are very much in the throws of the fourth Industrial Revolution and it’s going to significantly transform the way we live, work and go about our daily lives.

“It’s a stated fact that the Longford we know in 20 years will be nothing like the Longford we see now and unless we are able to put sufficient influence on central government places like Longford and other centres across rural Ireland in particular are going to become wastelands.”

The local media chief reminisced over his decision to vacate his native Lanesboro in 1995 to live and start out on his journalistic career with The Longford News.

He said the county town he arrived into could learn a lot from the sense of drive and purpose that characterised it at the time.

“Back in 1995 we would have thought Longford town was struggling and behind the curveball of the rest of the country but as I reflected on it today, if we would could have the vibrancy they had and the sense of hope they had in Longford town back then we would take that now and I think that puts into the context the scale of the challenge we have in Longford town,” he said.

“As a county, we have lost our way. Our communities, right across the county are tired and weary and downbeaten .”

Cllr Flaherty attempted to soften those cautionary remarks by acknowledging the part played by elected members on all sides of the chamber in steering the county back towards more calmer economic waters.

There were warm welcomes too from his party colleagues as there were more caustic greetings from those in Fine Gael and in particular Cllr Flaherty’s general election rival Cllr Micheál Carrigy.

“It’s (being a councillor) a tough job,” said the Ballinalee local representative, as he welcomed Cllr Flaherty into the chamber.

“I will be doing my damndest though, to make sure your stay is a very long one on Longford County Council.”

Not to be outdone, Cllr Flaherty held his counsel for a short period before hitting back at Cllr Carrigy and those sitting in the Fine Gael benches.

“I am certain when I sit on this side of the house I am in the midst of the hardest working public representatives and I don’t think you could get better public representatives than the Fianna Fáil party that serves the people of Longford at the moment.

“It will be a long journey but I want you all to know that I am ready to put my shoulder behind the wheel and work with all councillors and the executive to make Longford that we all know and love a great county again,” he said.

Read next:

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