Report Eamonn Lacey
Pictures by John D. Kelly and John Crowley
It’s not often that the Minister of the Environment would attend a retirement function for a local authority official but in Ned O’Connor’s case it was most appropriate.
Through his meteoric rise up the ranks of local government administration over a period of forty seven years spanning six decades, Ned O’Connor was a legendary figure in local government and the presence of Minister Phil Hogan at a retirement function held in his honour reflected the esteem in which the popular Cahir man is held at a national level.
On a very proud occasion for Ned O’Connor glowing tributes were paid to the out-going South Tipperary County Manager at a function attended by family, friends and colleagues at the Hotel Minella.
It was an emotional farewell to one of the “great custodians” of local government and his retirement from April 28 marks the end of an era in South Tipperary.The event was held on the night he officially retired from office with his last official function to sign off on the crucial agreement that secures the future of Tipperary Institute/LIT at the Ballingarrane Estate.
His illustrious local government career began when he joined South Tipperary County Council as a clerical officer in 1964 and he went on to serve in a number of administrative positions including County Secretary and Assistant Manager before being appointed county manager in July 2002 without ever leaving South Tipperary.
Leading the tributes the Minister for the Environment said it was a privilege for him to attend the function to honour a “unique individual” in local government. The Minister said that the presence of so many county managers from around the country at the function along with senior Department figures was testimony to the high esteem in which Ned O’Connor was held.
“To have forty seven years service in one local authority, to start as a clerk and end up as county manager was a phenomenal achievement, one that I doubt has happened before and one that will definitely not happen again,” said the minister. He said that Ned O’Connor excelled in the “human dimension” of his dealings with public representatives, staff, the general public and his ability to bring people with him was essential so his unique style. Minister Hogan described Ned O’Connor as one of the great custodians of local government who had made an enormous contribution to service provision for the people of South Tipperary for an incredible forty seven years. County Council Chairman Sean McCarthy said the presence of the Minister epitomised the esteem in which Ned O’Connor was held. He praised the out-going manager for his invaluable advice and opinion which were of tremendous value to elected representatives throughout South Tipperary over his long and distinguished service to local government.
Geraldine Tallon, Secretary General of the Department of the Environment said Mr. O’Connor had given absolutely outstanding service to South Tipperary. He was held in very high regard in the Department by all officials who owed him a huge debt for the generosity of the manner in which he put his skills and knowledge at their disposal.
“I salute Ned as the most collegiate of men, a man at the top of his game professionally, a true leader for the whole service and such an evening like this is most appropriate to celebrate a special gentleman. He was one of the finest county managers of his generation,” she said.
Other speakers included former colleague Dick Grant who spoke on behalf of retired members, Ned Gleeson (former Tipp managers), Sinead Carr (South Tipperary management team), Eddie Breen (County Managers Association), Seaghan O’Leannagain (retired CEO of the local government management services agency)
In response Ned O’Connor said he enjoyed every day working with South Tipperary County Council and had no regrets. He was leaving with a lot of sadness and great memories such as starting out alongside his friend Dick Grant in the old garda barracks a long time ago.
He said he was very proud that since the county manager system was introduced that he was one of seven Tipperary people to be appointed county manager. He was very proud of the fact that the Minister for the Environment was able to attend the function.Ned O’Connor told the large crowd that attended the function that one of the spin offs of his career was the great number of friends he had made over the years. He was particularly grateful for the tremendous commitment and loyalty shown to him by indoor and outdoor staff and he wanted to say a special thanks to all of the staff he had worked with since he started in 1964.
He praised the co-operation of officials in the Department of the Environment he had to work with over the years and acknowledged their acceptance of the fact that South Tipperary was the premier half of the Premier County.
Finally Mr. O’Connor paid tribute to his own family for their support throughout his career. He thanked his sisters Sister Ann and Margaret and his brother in law Tom, nephew Tom and nieces Aine and Miriam.