New mayor of Clonmel, Labour Cllr Darren Ryan said that he will honour the unsung heroes in the community who work tirelessly, often without any thanks, and give them the acknowledgement that they deserve during his 12-month stint as Clonmel’s first citizen. Cllr Ryan was elected last week as mayor of Clonmel for the very first time, in what was ultimately, a straightforward process which saw him defeat Workers and Unemployed Action Group (WUAG) member Cllr Billy Shoer by two votes.
While all five members of the WUAG supported Cllr Shoer for mayor, the seven other members of the council saw to it that he would not take the seat at the top table - for an eighth year running. The pact that was agreed upon in 2009 by Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Labour and at the time, one independent, was fully adhered to this year and Labour took the honour as was planned, excluding the WUAG from the mayoralty because of their refusal to vote in favour of the annual budget.
Nominated by his fellow Labour Party colleague Cllr Gabrielle Egan and seconded by independent Cllr Niall Dennehy, Mayor Ryan said that it was an honour for any citizen to be elected mayor but added that it was an even greater honour for him, as a native of the town. But the cherry on top for Mayor Ryan will come in 2012 when the Labour Party celebrates its 100th anniversary, having been formed in Clonmel in 1912. The significance of Clonmel having a Labour Party mayor when this milestone is marked next year, was acknowledged by his supporters on the night, including Cllr Egan who said that next year will be an important one for the Party.
Mayor Ryan was elected to Clonmel Borough Council in 2004, as a member of the Workers and Unemployed Action Group (WUAG) but his alliance with the group was relatively short-lived and he has been a member of the Labour Party for most of his political life. In 2007 he was co-opted onto South Tipperary County Council, when he replaced Phil Prendergast who became a senator in the same year. And in 2009, he was re-elected to both councils.
“He is an active and progressive councillor who has always put the needs of the people he represents before his own,” said Cllr Egan.
“He is a member of a number of sub committees in both the borough and county council, has been involved in the community life of Clonmel since he was 10 years of age.” She paid tribute to his dedication as a community worker since that young age and outlined a sample of his achievements and the groups of which he is a central member including: his victory in 1997 in the Lions Club International Award which he won from 20,000 Irish applicants; his involvement in the Irish Red Cross for almost 20 years; and his very active participation in his home community in Elm Park.
In his acceptance speech, Mayor Ryan said that he would ensure that the 2011 International Year of the Volunteer would be celebrated in Clonmel under his watch, as he pledge to honour those who give freely of their time. He said that there had been enough negativity in the past but the future should now be the focus.
“Yes there are tough times ahead, but I believe that it is only by us, the elected representatives and officials of Clonmel Borough Council working together in a positive way that we can enhance our future.” “The office of mayor of Clonmel is one of historic status and I am honoured to follow in the footsteps of so many who have held this position. I strongly believe that the office of mayor can and should be used to facilitate and drive change.
“There are many groups and committees in our town working so hard to enhance our facilities, communities and the town centre and it is my hope as mayor to bring all these groups together and streamline how we can all work together, identify and prioritise what the needs are,” said Mayor Ryan. He noted the many changes that Clonmel has seen over the years - the flood scheme being one such major change - and he said that he believed that the scheme would be completed on target and will provide peace of mind to those who have suffered for many years when their homes have been flooded. One of his goals will be to see some progress made in finding a suitable location for the Clonmel Garda Station.
“For many years the dedicated members of the Clonmel Gardai have had to work in what can only be described as sub-standard conditions. We have to keep in mind that current economic situation but I strongly believe that this project needs to be moved forward and work progressed on it, at the very least we should identify a suitable site.
He said that he was proud to be from a community that has encouraged and supported him all his life, politically and personally and said that he was proud of where he came from.
“I am proud of my home estate of Elm Park and this is a special time for that community also when one of their own has been elected first citizen.”
His seconder Cllr Niall Dennehy said that as an elected body, Clonmel Borough Council could honour the Labour Party as it celebrates 100 years of its foundation in Clonmel, by electing a Labour Party mayor of Clonmel. Cllr Dennehy thanked Mayor Ryan for all his support to him over the two years since his co-option to Clonmel Borough Council following the retirement of his father and a former mayor of Clonmel Niall Dennehy, and said that he was delighted to support and repay him for that help.
Further tributes were paid to the new mayor by Cllr Siobhan Ambrose, Cllr Richie Molloy, Cllr Dinny Dunne and Cllr Joe Leahy, all of whom supported Mayor Ryan. However there were no tributes forthcoming from the WUAG members as the five seats on the opposite side of the council table were vacated in protest to their exclusion once again.