The camera didn't pick up the text because it's one of those flashing signs - but it says there's free parking in council car parks in Mullingar this weekend...

Free parking in main council car parks in Mullingar this weekend

There is free parking in the main council car parks in Mullingar again this weekend, Friday December 16, Saturday December 17; and again on Thursday December 22, and Friday December 23 and Christmas Eve.

At a meeting in the autumn, council officials told the elected members that the free parking applies in the car parks, but that payment will still be required for on-street parking.

Director of services David Jones said that every day’s free parking costs the council approximately €2,500.

Cllr Emily Wallace queried why just six days’ free parking are being allocated for Mullingar while Athlone wass to receive eight.

From the top table it was pointed out that there will be a further week of free parking in Mullingar next year when the fleadh takes place.

Cllr Ken Glynn, however, stated that last year, at the request of the Chamber of Commerce two days were set aside for an event due to take place. “Were those two days used?” he asked.

Cllr Aoife Davitt asked that greater effort be made to alert people when free parking is available: “There is no signage at the actual meters when you get to the car parks to say the parking is free,” she said, suggesting that the meters be covered on the days of free parking.

Cllr Wallace confirmed that she too understood that two days had been set aside for a “shopping initiative” for January or February, but that those two days had not been used.

“Forget about the fleadh: that is a completely separate festival and entity and that is funded completely separately,” she said. “This is about encouraging people to come and support our town.”

She stated that every shop on the main street is going to be fighting to keep its doors open next year. “We want people to shop local and come into town and spend time with their families and spend money. It’s basically about keeping family businesses – and businesses in general – open in the Mullingar area,” she said, calling to have the two “lost” days added to the December list.

Cllr Glynn backed her call, and also Cllr Davitt’s point about the need to do more to publicise the free days.

Cllr Mick Dollard argued, however, that putting “a few cent in a parking meter” was unlikely to deter shoppers from visiting Mullingar. “I think six days are enough, quite frankly,” he stated.

Cllr Paddy Hill wondered if the municipal district could in any way promote the rural towns as well: “Businesses there are under a lot of pressure and possibly under more pressure than Mullingar is under,” he stated.

Supporting that stance, Cllr Denis Leonard said: “We need to shop in the small towns.”

Cllr Bill Collentine suggested that a day of free parking be set aside for St Patrick’s weekend, and another for the bachelor festival.

Councillors agreed to approve the six days, and also a suggestion from Cllr Wallace that Mullingar Chamber be asked to firm up its proposals for a further two days.