By Dan Walsh
The newly elected Cathaoirleach of Wexford County Council is Cllr Ger Carthy, a ‘frontline worker’ from the Rosslare District who defeated Cllr Oliver Walsh (Gorey-Kilmuckridge District) by 22 votes to 9 at the 123rd annual general meeting of Wexford County Council held in two-metre distancing arrangements in ‘the Street’ at County Hall, Carricklawn, today.
In a moving maiden speech Cllr Carthy paid tribute to his proposer and seconder and his family before complimenting the local authority and its ‘frontline’ staff who ensured that the community felt safe and looked after their local communities to ensure that vulnerable people were protected at a surreal and unprecedented time.
Cllr Carthy said; “Over the past number of months Wexford County Council rose to an unprecedented and once in a lifetime challenge that the people of this county and this country faced. Now that we are thankfully leaving the dark and scary days of March, April and May and early June moving into the new norm, we as public representatives face new challenges, that is to ensure that all local authorities, including Wexford County Council by a new government that was appointed last Saturday.”
“Covid 19 has caused heartbreak for many families in recent months and I want to express my deep sympathy to all those who suffered bereavements during this period of restriction and were not able to mourn or indeed celebrate the lives of their loved ones in traditional Irish style.
“Alongside personal tragedies, which families suffered have been economic turmoil caused by measures introduced that were necessary to contain this virus. Many businesses, particularly those in retail and tourism sectors, which is really the backbone of the Wexford economy has suffered a huge blow and large numbers will struggle even to remain viable. Small businesses will require urgent and ongoing support from central government if they are to survive and we are to avoid large scale job losses across County Wexford,” he concluded.
Many tributes were paid to Cllr Carthy from fellow Rosslare District member Cllr Frank Staples, Cllr George Lawlor, who proposed the new chairman, ‘former school colleague’ Cllr Lisa McDonald and Cllr John Fleming who said he was “a frontline worker and had a great following.”
Good wishes were also expressed by Cllrs Mary Farrell, Barbara-Anne Murphy, Kathleen Codd-Nolan, Jim Moore, Michael Whelan (whose father served on the Council with Cllr Carthy’s father), Willie Kavanagh, Fionntán Ó Suilleabháin and John Hegarty told the new chairman; “It is a very proud day for you and your family. Enjoy it and make the most of it.”
Cllr Cathal Byrne thanked Cllr Carthy for “being open and available to offer help and advice to new members.” Cllr Joe Sullivan reminded him that “it is a huge honour and you can be greatly proud to be the head of a population of 150,000 people. Good wishes were also forthcoming from Cllr Andrew Bolger and Pip Breen.
CEO Tom Enright said it was important to have all 34 members of the Council together again. He paid tribute to outgoing Cathaoirleach, Cllr Michael Sheehan, as did the majority of speakers in the chamber and he thanked the staff of the Council and praised the frontline workers who had brought us through a difficult three months.
All-Ireland hurling medal winner with Wexford in 1996, Garry Laffan defeated ‘recently engaged’ Cllr Bridín Murphy for the Leas-Cathaoirleach position.
The new Mayor of Wexford Borough Council is Cllr Leonard Kelly who takes over the mayoral chains from Cllr George Lawlor. The Deputy Mayor is Cllr Thomas Forde.
No change in Gorey-Kilmuckridge Municipal District where Cllr Joe Sullivan is Cathaoirleach and Cllr Oliver Walsh takes up the position of Leas-Cathaoirleach.
Female members take the lead in the Enniscorthy District with Cllr Barbara-Anne Murphy stepping into the hot seat, a position she last occupied in 2014. Outgoing Cathaoirleach Cllr Kathleen Codd-Nolan is now Leas-Cathaoirleach.
Cllr Michael Whelan is the new Cathaoirleach in New Ross District, a position he last held in 2016-’17, replacing Cllr John Fleming. Leas-Cathaoirleach is Cllr Bridín Murphy from Ballymackessey, Clonroche.
In Rosslare Municipal District outgoing Cathaoirleach moves into the top position with Wexford County Council and his place is taken by Cllr Frank Staples. Cllr Lisa McDonald is Leas-Cathaoirleach.
Also today many glowing tributes were paid to the retiring County Secretary of many years, Pat Collins, who is replaced by David Minogue, who acted as Returning Officer in his new role.