Cllr. Michael Fitzgerald, the new chairman of Cashel Tipperary Municipal Council
Cllr Michael Fitzgerald (FG) was installed unopposed as the new Cathaoirleach of Cashel Tipperary Municipal District at this month’s meeting, with tributes paid to the “work ethic” and energy of outgoing Cathaoirleach Roger Kennedy (FF).
Cllr John Crosse (FG) nominated his party colleague, while Cllr Mary Hanna Hourigan seconded the motion. Cllr Crosse was elected Leas Cathaoirleach unopposed.
The ceremony was tinged with a flash of anger however as Cllr Denis Leahy (Ind) drew attention to the “unacceptable” 34% employment level in Tipperary town - one of the worst in the entire country, according to recent Census figures.
In his acceptance speech, Cllr Fitzgerald laid out his vision for the year, and considered it an “extra special” honour to be elected unanimously. “I have a great love and passion for local government. I consider it the bedrock of our local democracy. This is where the groundwork is done.”
Cllr Fitzgerald has served as a member of South Tipperary County Council since 1979, has twice been elected Chairperson, in 1992 and 2002.
“I hope to develop further the great efforts the Council has made regarding the N24 and the Tipperary town bypass, regarding the huge drive in bringing much needed industry and jobs to our area, and particularly Tipperary town and to highlight further the lack of medical services in our state of the art facilities in Cashel.
" I think it would be wrong for anyone elected to these positions to make spurious promises that cannot be achieve. But what we can do is renew our efforts to improve the quality of life of the people we represent.”
Cllr Fitzgerald said he believed the Town Councils are a “huge loss” and if they are not going to be restored, a “serious review has to be carried out to increase membership and improve budgets for these towns. I will do my best to support achieving these goals”.
Recalling an extremely busy year, outgoing Cathaoirleach Roger Kennedy (FF) said huge progress has been made in key areas, notibly at the rear of the Courthouse in Cashel to create a new pedestrian accessway for visitors to view the City Walls. “That will be a tremendous asset to the town of Cashel,” he said.
The long list of achievements includes the ongoing N24 Davitt Street Improvment Scheme in Tipp town, the Kickham Street Project, the 'Zero Waste ' Project in Cashel, flood, bridge, and sewerage repair works, and town and village enhancement schemes. The terms of reference have been furnished to the OPW to house a part of Cashel 's Bolton Library in the Motor Tax Office in Friar Street. There was a moment of humour as Cllr Kennedy said he'd like the Circular Road at the back of the Rock of Cashel to be renamed the Queen's Road, in honour of the UK Head of State's visit in 2011. “You're making me sweat already,” joked Cllr Martin Browne (SF).
Cllr Denis Leahy noted the list of achievments to Cllr Kennedy's hard work, but there was no mention of Tipperary town's “unacceptable level of employment.” “We cannot sit around and watch our town stoop to its lowest level.”
The release of Census figures showing Tipp town as one of the worst unemployment blackspot was “a black day” for Cllr Leahy. “I fear the Town Council would have reacted better and quicker to this. “You have to convene with all the agencies that are available,” he told the new Chairman.
Tipperary town must be top of the list of priorties for whichever Minister is in charge. Northern Trust aimed to create 1,000 jobs in Limerick, “but what's wrong with Tipperary that we have no jobs? There's a fantastic factory closed to us next door, for the last three to four years. Jobs have evaporated and nothing has been done.
“These are my people, I was born and raised here,” added Cllr Leahy. “That's the message that has to go out there, that Tipperary is at the forefront of our efforts. The cities are bursting at the seams. But Tipperary town is fading away before our eyes.”