When JOHN DONOHOE asked that question in the Meath Chronicle's Meathman's Diary column two weeks ago, he expected a reaction but the massive response to the piece showed just how much the local community shared his views and were as equallly frustrated by the lack of leadership and civic pride shown in the County town.
For those who missed it, here it is again, and below we've added some of the heartfelt and more proactive comments that were left on our Facebook page. See what you think. Given a fightening incident allegedly involving a knife-wielding youth at Metges Lane in broad daylight yesterday, and a handbag snatch in the early hours of this morning, there can be no denying there is a drastic need for real action.
With anti-social behaviour around the town centre, and filthy streets, does anyone care about Navan, asks John Donohoe
It took an outburst by councillors at this month’s meeting of Navan Town Council before anything was done about the state of the streets in the town centre, specifically Market Square. The dirt and grime of the streets has been a disgrace for quite a while. I know there has been a water shortage, but there still has been enough in the river to bring up in a tanker for watering flowers.
Sure, the councillors had a rant at the council meeting. It made headlines in this newspaper. Action was taken, and a power washer was found to give the streets a blast. Then what happens? Normality resumes. The streets get dirty again. We’re back at square one. Market Square one!
It begs the bigger question? Who cares about Navan? Does anyone? Do the businesses in the town care? Does the council care? Do the councillors care? Do the citizens care?
Did any of the councillors who were shouting at the council meeting in the presence of the media actually pick up a phone to Buvinda House out the Dublin Road, where all the council staff and executive have decamped to, to draw attention to the problem?
The old town urban/town council and its members rarely pulled together in the interests of the town, as Trim councillors would. It probably hasn't got any better in the municipal area council, now covering a bigger area. Individual politicians were always pursuing their own agendas to further their own causes and political careers.
Likewise, there are too many agendas in the town itself, with people asking 'what's in it for me?'. Think of the bigger picture - attract more people into Navan, and the whole town benefits.
But then, there is also a huge problem of anti-social behaviour in the town, particularly around the Market Square and Metges Lane, where it seems there is no problem if you want to get off your head on a few cans and stronger substances and intimidate people waiting for the bus, at a bus stop that should have been long ago moved from there. Last week, three buses arrived at once, at the town came to a standstill. A fourth one was waiting in the traffic jam on Kennedy Road.
The Athlumney Road bridge is closed for the summer to build a new cantilevered boardwalk - it will simply get our Market Square drinkers across the river quicker to their drinking dens. Will it be of benefit to the town? It could be, creating a link to Andy Brennan Riverside Park and the Ramparts, and the Ardmulchan Cemetery beauty spot. I can’t imagine people would feel too safe using it though.
(On the topic of Ardmulchan Cemetery and the Boyne Valley Drive, a signpost for the drive at Garlow Cross which got splattered with mud last winter has never been cleaned. Lip service is all tourism gets, it seems - Ireland's Ancient East bedamned!)
What is missing from the town is leadership. Someone to take up the cudgels on behalf of the town. People expect the agencies and authorities to do everything – but citizens and businesses themselves need to stand up too. And say this is not good enough. Keep the pressure on the authorities.
There isn’t even a Tidy Towns Committee in Navan. Kells has a vibrant Local Heroes organisation. Trim has an active Tourism Network. All born out of Chambers of Commerce. How many businesses in town does Navan Chamber represent? At the last annual meeting I attended, the membership didn’t seem huge for a town of its size.
The other towns are far ahead of the county town when it comes to promoting their assets and organising festivals – Navan has huge potential for a festival, given its amazing output of entertainers, comedians, movie stars, musicians, composers and singers. There is hardly anything to signify that one of the biggest film stars of popular culture, a James Bond actor, came from the town. Indeed, one native I mentioned it to practically dismissed the idea. And there are many musical, drama and arts group already active in the town who could easily row in with ideas.
It also has other huge connections it could build on – like Francis Beaufort, and the stories of design and manufacture in the furniture industry. Navan Historical Society has been very active in preserving the industrial history of Navan – and with many of the entertainment figures scions of old furniture families, surely a link could be developed into something like a movie festival?
There also seems to be a disconnect between the county council and the business people of the town. Every time the council proposes and promotes an idea such as redeveloping a streetscape or part of the town, there is considerable opposition. What was supposed to be a civic plaza in the centre of town has turned into a glorified car park, where there is constant chaos.
There was a major march some years back to oppose a development of the Fair Green which would allow for underground parking. Perhaps greater consultation is needed with the townsfolk and businesspeople, rather than relying on consultants to produce a scheme. It will be interesting to see how the Navan 2030 Plan turns out.
By the way – there are three TDs representing the town, a junior minister and one in each of the main opposition parties. Surely more attention to Navan could be demonstrated from Leinster House.
Even the Vintners Association in the town seems to have fallen apart, all too busy watching each other rather than getting together and developing an idea to promote Navan.
Navan has so much potential, but it needs to start pulling together. The old adage 'United We Stand, Divided We Fall', comes to mind.
So what have you been saying?
Ciara Gaughan wrote:
I live in Ballina, Co. Mayo now after growing up just outside Navan. A lot could be learned from towns like Ballina & Westport. Ballina's not a wealthy town but it is miles ahead of Navan regarding culture, festivals, tourism and tidy towns. But as said in the article, Navan has it all for the taking! Just needs the right attitude and enthusiasm.
Noreen Reilly wrote:
Shopkeepers need to take a much greater role in keeping the appearance of their shopfronts attractive.
Tommie Loughran wrote:
A cohesive approach similar to what happens in several small towns in the West is needed. The old canal from the ramparts to Slane and beyond is only one initiative that could reap huge benefit to the town....Don't expect politicians to change anything, they won't, if they were agents for change they wouldn't be politicans, the town itself has to change this without them.
Kevin Booth wrote:
Ian Primrose wrote:
Communities drive change, the businesses, the council, etc. merely facilitate it - it's up to the community who live there to shape it, drive it and make it last after the opportunities for free publicity have passed. If the people that live there want change only they can make it happen.
What's your view? What would you do to help improve Navan town centre and make it a place for everyone to enjoy and take pride in? Let us know email: firstname.lastname@example.org