By Keith Bourke
Local councillors have warned that Ballina needs a ‘Budget for Biden’.
While no itinerary has yet been announced for the visit of the US President, it is expected Ballina will be included in his Irish visit in April.
At last week’s meeting of the Ballina Municipal District, councillors urged Mayo County Council, the Government, and tourist organisations to help fund preparations for the visit of POTUS to Ballina.
Fine Gael Cllr John O’Hara warned the clock is already ticking. He pointed to some streets and areas being in a ‘dilapidated’ state while other prominent buildings have ‘not been painted for 30 years’. He said Ballina will be beamed all over the world, adding:
“This has to be a top priority. We need to get our council to give us a budget for this.”
Cllr Seamus Weir was a bit more cautious, noting that no firm dates for a Biden visit to Ballina have been provided.
“It is too early to go painting the town,” he remarked.
However, Cathaoirleach of the municipal district, Independent Cllr Mark Duffy said the council must press ahead with plans.
“Ballina needs as many resources and funding as possible. We need to put our best foot forward. We need to remember this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the town.”
He said ‘multi-department’ funding will be required and Ballina should not be afraid to be ambitious in its proposals.
“We could have U2 come here or international bands,” he said.
Cllr Annie-May Reape was singing off the same hymn sheet.
“It’s a once-off chance that we will never get again,” she said, pointing to the spin-off tourism successes that towns like Moneygall in Co Offaly and New Ross in Co Wexford enjoyed following US presidential visits.
“We do need the money and we need it fairly fast,” said Cllr Reape, adding that Minister Dara Calleary is working behind the scenes to try and achieve this.
Cllr O’Hara encouraged the entire town to get behind the efforts, including local businesses.