The dedication and hard work of local community and voluntary groups is what will make Ireland strong again, and national politicians must support and listen to local people, is the call from the outgoing chairman of South Tipperary County Council.
At last Friday’s county council annual general meeting, Cllr Michael Fitzgerald called on those at national government level to listen to those as a local level.
Reflecting on his year as chairman, Cllr Fitzgerald said his philosophy had been not to look at the negative but to seek out the positive. “I found it and found how this nation will be built again if those in power listen.” He said government has to listen to voluntary and community groups who are working to build up their own communities.
The first official function of his year as chairman was last summer’s Clonmel Show, he said, and the voluntary work happening there amazed him.
The outgoing chairman went around the council chamber and mentioned community and voluntary work that each member of the council was involved in.“These are simple things but big matters within the community,” he said.
Local communities and local representatives can only do so much, Cllr Fitzgerald went on, the people elected to national office must feed into this work. “Governments must listen to those down along the line in order for the whole thing to operate. If that doesn’t happen then we are really going nowhere.”
Emigration is a sad fact of life now, Cllr Fitzgerald went on to say. He told the meeting that during the year he had attended many ‘going away’ parties for those emigrating from towns and villages. “It’s sad to see the trauma and stress on families when this happens, sadly it’s a fact of life now,” he said. “We are education people for jobs that are not there.”
Cllr Fitzgerald said that when he became chairman, a year ago, he had said then that the county is experiencing difficulty and challenging times, and we still are.
Last January Cllr Fitzgerald was elected to the governing body of UCC, as a representative of the two Tipperary county councils, and he said this has given him a different perspective on things. He said he found it a daunting task but he wants to see UCC moving out into the community of Tipperary and having more of an impact on education here.
He went on to pay tribute to County Manager Billy McEvoy, County Secreatry John O’Mahoney and the council staff with whom he worked during the year, and to his vice-chairman, Cllr Michael Murphy, who, he said, was a “tremendous ally.”
To his wife Mary and family Cllr Fitzgerald also paid tribute, saying it had been a trying time but also a great honour.
He said he ended his year as he began, looking at the community at work, when he attended an event in Ormond Castle in Carrick on Suir.
Tributes were paid to Cllr Fitzgerald’s year as chairman by his fellow councillors and council officials.