Opposing the sale of Market Square ‘was my biggest success’

Outgoing chairman of Dundalk Town Council, Eamon O’Boyle says he has not yet made any decisions about whether he will leave politics or not.

Outgoing chairman of Dundalk Town Council, Eamon O’Boyle says he has not yet made any decisions about whether he will leave politics or not.

Mr O’Boyle contested Dundalk Carlingford and Dundalk South in last week’s local election, and failed to get elected in either ward.

A former Fine Gael councillor he had failed to secure the party’s nomination to run in the 2014 local elections and decided to run as an independent instead.

Having failed to get elected, Eamon is now reflecting on his time in politics at a local level.

He was elected in 2004, but had been in community service and an active worker and advocate for non-profit organisations since the 1970s.

He worked with a number of the town’s groups including being a founder member of Dundalk Social Services Council, and the Co Louth Branch of the National Association of the Deaf.

He was a founder member of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors in 1976 and served on the National Executive Council and as Chairperson, Secretary and PRO on different occasions from 1976 to present time of the North East Branch. He also worked with Dyslexia Ireland in Drogheda.

Apart from all this community service he worked as a guidance councillor, and contributed to a myriad of community groups locally.

Yet despite all this, Eamon believes he was always viewed as an outsider on the council.

In 2004 Eamon was invited by Fine Gael to run for Dundalk Town Council in what was known as the North ward Dundalk.

“There were some people who were against it as they thought I wasn’t local, despite having spent two thirds of my life working for the people here,” says Eamon. “I was still considered an outsider, a blow-in.”

“Asking questions was what I did, especially in relation to zoning land. I would query why certain land was zoned inappropriately and I tried to get that changed.

“I believe in being honest and fair and trying to effect the best choices for the people.

“The first thing that struck me was the old Customs Building out the Newry Road. I was horrified to discover we were paying rent for 13 to 14 portacabins at the rate of €55,000 per year, six years after the Revenue people had moved out.”

Within three months of Eamon’s campaigning on the issue the place was levelled.

“There was a building there that was clad in asbestos sheeting and we had Eastern Europeans squatting there and using furniture and filing cabinets to light fires to keep themselves warm at night. I was fearful that if the place went on the fire that the whole town could be exposed to asbestosis. They were dealt with too.”

Eamon however feels his biggest success was standing up against the sale of theMarket Square to a developer.

“They were selling to a private developer who has since gone out of business. It would have been a seven storey building taking up over half the surface area of the square, and to put a two storey carpark underneath.

“It was regarded as Public Private Partnership and it was rolled out to us as being a wonderful opportunity for Dundalk. It was being backed by the Fianna Fáil group at the time.

“It was assumed that I would back it to the hilt, but I thought it was folly. It came down to a vote of the members. It was six -six. The three independents and three Sinn Fein were opposed to it. I voted against it.

“As a result for two and a half years I was considered a pariah.

“I was castigated on high for doing that. I was called a blow-in again and I was accused of being anti-business. It was considered that I had brought the darkest day Dundalk could imagine and was treated with appalling contempt at the time.

“And now they realise it would have been a massive mistake and very few people are willing to acknowledge that now.”