Tipperary Co. Council elected its first female chairperson and vice-chairperson at the local authority's agm in Clonmel last Friday.
Clonmel based FF Cllr Siobhan Ambrose took over the chains of office of Council chairperson from party colleague Cllr Seamus Hanafin from Thurles. Ballinure FG Cllr Louise McLoughlin was elected vice-chair.
Cllr Ambrose was elected by a large majority of 29 votes to 10 thanks to a voting pact between the Fianna Fail and Fine Gael councillors, Labour Cllr Fiona Bonfield, who wasn't at the agm, and Independent Cllr Eddie O'Meara.
The former Mayor of Clonmel also received the votes of 8 other Independents. FF party colleagues Cllr Roger Kennedy and Cllr Micheál Anglim proposed and seconded her.
Her defeated rival was former Mayor of Clonmel Borough District Cllr Martin Lonergan from Ardfinnan. The Independent received the votes of fellow Independents Cllr Richie Molloy, Cllr Denis Leahy and Cllr Jim Ryan, Workers & Unemployment Action Group Cllr Pat English and the Council's five Sinn Fein members.
Cllr Ambrose is following in the footsteps of her father Tom, who served as a Fianna Fail county councillor for many years and chaired the former South Tipperary Co. Council on three occasions. Tom and his wife Joan were among the members of Cllr Ambrose's proud family and supporters in the Council Chamber's public gallery to witness her election.
Following her election, Cllr Ambrose said it was an historic day for her family and she felt very proud and honoured to be standing here as the Council's new cathaoirleach.
"History has been made as I become the first female to be elected chairperson of this new Council and the first Clonmel woman ever to hold the position," she told the packed Council chamber.
She said her primary aim as chairperson will be to attract investment and jobs to Co. Tipperary, pointing to recent job losses arising from the closure of Ranbaxy in Cashel and Suir Pharma in Clonmel.
She said she intended highlighting existing vacant units and sites across the country, namely the former Mulberry Stoves site in Carrick, the Pal factory in Tipperary Town, the Ranbaxy plant in Cashel, Moy Isover in Ardfinnan, the Erin Foods site in Thurles, the Antigen factory in Roscrea and business parks in Cahir and Nenagh as well as potential sites in Fethard and the Science and Technology Park in Ballingarrane, Clonmel.
Cllr Ambrose said securing additional funding for the county's roads and strategic infrastructure will also be a priority for her.
"I hope to raise the issue of extra funding with the new Minister at the earliest opportunity as funding for road resurfacing has been seriously depleted."
She indicated she will also use her term to campaign for bypasses for Carrick-on-Suir, Tipperary Town and Thurles, improved broadband and mobile phone coverage across the county and more funding for housing.
Before her election, Sinn Fein once again proposed the Council adopt the d'Hondt system for electing the chair and vice-chair of the Council. SF Cllr Martin Browne, who proposed Cllr Lonergan for the chair, called on all the Council's independent councillors to support this system whereby the poll topper from each municipal district is elected Co. Council chairperson.
Cllr Browne complained the election of chairperson was going to be the same grab for power under the old voting pact system that had failed locally and nationally and Sinn Fein were looking for a new politics.
Outgoing chairman Cllr Seamus Hanafin shot back that the method of electing chair was not "failed politics" and he was sorry Cllr Browne had chosen this occasion to raise this issue.
Meanwhile, the election of Cllr Louise McLoughlin as the Council's first woman vice-chairperson was an emotional occasion for the FG councillor as her mother Cllr Catherine McLoughlin served as vice-chairperson of the former South Tipperary Co. Council before her death in 2010.
Cllr McLoughlin defeated Clonmel Cllr Pat English (WUAG) by 30 votes to 9 to secure the position. She was proposed and seconded by fellow FG councillors Mary Hanna-Hourigan and Cllr Michael Fitzgerald and was elected by the same voting pact that elected Cllr Ambrose as chair with the additional support of 9 independents outside the pact. Tipperary Town Cllr Denis Leahy, who voted for Cllr Lonergan in the election of chairperson, opted to vote with the pact for Cllr McLoughlin as vice-chair.
Cllr McLoughlin said her late mother was very proud to be vice-chair of South Tipperary Co. Council in 2009/2010 and she was delighted to be following in her footsteps.
Cllr Seamus Hanafin, in his final speech as Council Chairman, looked back on the many highlights of his term in office ranging from the civic receptions accorded to Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Director General Labhras O'Murchu in Cashel and Grand National winning horse trainer Mouse Morris in Fethard to the 1916 Rising commemorations across the county.
In relation to the low points, he singled out the tragic death of Cllr Willie Kennedy in a road accident last March. His death was a huge loss to the Council, he said.
Representatives of all the parties on the Council congratulated Cllr Hanafin on his term as chairman. Co. Council Chief Executive Joe McGrath described his term as "outstanding" and praised Cllr Hanafin for being always available and so generous with his time and for showing a great sense of pride in the role of chairman.