By Eoin Kelleher
FINE Gael Councillor Michael Fitzgerald has made history by being unanimously installed as South Tipperary’s new Chairman, making him the only Councillor in the country to enjoy the position on three occasions in modern times.
Cllr Fitzgerald was proposed by Cllr Liam Ahearne, and seconded by Cllr John Crosse. Cllr Ahearne said Cllr Fitzgerald would bring a “broad array of talents” to the position. “Michael comes from a family tradition of loyalty and service. His father was Chairman in 1966, and Michael himself served as Chair in 1992 and 2002. He is acknowledged as one of the top Councillors in the country,” said Cllr Ahearne.
Cllr Fitzgerald said it was a deep honour to be nominated and elected unanimously. “This year will be one of the most challenging ones, due to the economic circumstances the country finds itself in. But I think we in South Tipperary have been prudent over the years. We have invested wisely in infrastructure; that will stand to us when the upturn comes,” said Cllr Fitzgerald, who added that his priorities would be to build up co-operation between local and national government while marketing the county to business and industry.
Cllr Michael Murphy was elected as Vice Chairman - 17 votes to 8 - in a contest with Independent Cllr Eddie O’Meara. Cllr Murphy was put forward by Cllr Ahearne and Cllr Tom Acheson while Cllr O’Meara was nominated by Cllrs Denis Leahy (Ind) and Richie Molloy (Ind).
Councillors who voted for Cllr Murphy included; Tom Acheson, Liam Ahearne, Michael Anglim, Siobhan Ambrose, Joe Brennan, Sylvia Cooney Sheehan, John Crosse, Jack Crowe, Joe Donovan, John Fahey, Mary Hanna Hourigan, Sean McCarthy, Louise McLoughlin, Marie Murphy, Michael Murphy, Michael Fitzgerald and Jimmy O’Brien.
Those who voted for Cllr O’Meara were; Pat English, Billy Shoer, Eddie O’Meara, Tom Wood, Richie Molloy, Seanie Lonergan, Darren Ryan, and Denis Leahy. Cllr O’Meara said the Independents, and the Workers and Unemployed Action Group (WUAG), were “expressing our right to nominate somebody” as part of the democratic process.
Cllr Fitzgerald replaces outgoing Chairperson of South Tipperary County Council, Dr Sean McCarthy, who thanked his wife Mary Joe in particular for “putting up with me during the year.”
Looking over the 12 months just gone, Cllr McCarthy said there had hardly been one “decent row in the whole year.”
“Despite huge financial constraints, I think we did well under the circumstances. I am grateful to all the members of the parties, and the Independents,” he said.
In particular, former County Manager Ned O’Connor and current Manager Billy McEvoy and his staff had done a superb job in maintaining vital services through the winters, while attracting top class industry to South Tipp such as the TI/LIT Ballingarrane Science Park near Clonmel.
Director of Corporate Affairs, John O’Mahoney was also singled out for special mention.
Highlights of Dr McCarthy’s year as Chairman included the Bru Boru reception for the winning Tipp Senior Hurling Team. “Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh’s mental memorabilia gave us all a night to remember,”
said Cllr McCarthy, who said he was also fortunate to be Chairman when the Queen of England visited Cashel: “something that probably no one could anticipate happening in their lifetime.” The visit was a huge boost to Cashel and showcased its architectural heritage to the world, said Dr McCarthy.