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*Cllr Ann Norton. Photograph: Eamon Ward

ENNIS’ outgoing Mayor has praised the people of the town and entire county for how they welcomed Ukrainian refugees with “open arms”.

Cllr Ann Norton’s (IND) second term as Mayor of the Ennis Municipal District concluded on Friday afternoon with Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) handed the mayoral chains.

Norton’s reign began last June with one of the first in-person meetings to take place in the local authority during the pandemic. “I know we were coming out of a very difficult time when I took over as Mayor in June of last year. Thankfully, things have some bit reduced, our numbers have reduced and we’re back to some bit of normality,” she reflected.

Barefield based Ann said her year was “very good and positive” and welcomed the ability to organise “wonderful events”. “One of the things I said at the beginning of last year was I wanted to focus on the carers and acknowledge work they do behind the scenes. Unfortunately a lot of them don’t get the acknowledgement for work they do. I was honoured to organise an afternoon tea at Hotel Woodstock, it was a huge success, we entertained 150 carers across the county”.

Among the more difficult tasks was speaking in Irish to welcome Junior Minister, Jack Chambers (FF) to glór, she admitted. “I haven’t a word of Irish as you know, all I can say is I stood in glór and murdered the Irish language. It was not something I was comfortable doing but as Mayor you have to put yourself out there”.

Glór was also the setting in recent weeks for an event aimed at increasing the involvement of women and young people in politics. “It was a great opportunity to sit down with my own colleagues, we are trying to encourage young people to register to vote and make their voices heard”.

Manager of the Clare Crusaders Clinic, Ann paid tribute to her husband and three children for their unwavering backing. “We had a lot of ups and downs medically but took each day as it came, it was a very unusual year”. Another highlight referenced by Cllr Norton was the Mayor’s ball which raised €18,000 for charities.

As Chairperson of the Board of Management at Ennis Educate Together, she has witnessed the difference 44 new Ukrainian students have made to the school, “war is still going on in Ukraine, we have many Ukrainian people now living in Clare with a huge amount in Ennis”. She added, “As an Irish community, we’re open to take on so much and welcome people with open arms”.

Concluding her thirteen minute final address as Mayor, she voiced her appreciation to Deputy Mayor, Cllr Paul Murphy (FG), “there was many a day I had to phone him, was stuck in the hospital and he did so much”.

“You carried the role brilliantly. You don’t half tell us the health battles you and Nicole have,” Cllr Murphy stated. He praised her role in welcoming President Higgins to Ennis and the afternoon tea for the carers. “I am proud to consider yourself, Cathal, Nicole, Lauren and Conán to be friends”.

A brief verse of song followed from Cllr Colleran Molloy, “take these chains from my heart and set me free”. She was confident of a “good handover” and acknowledged how her predecessor has “been steadfast in energy and commitment” as a county councillor.

Having Junior Minister Chambers in Ennis to launch the Irish language development plan stands out as one of the highlights of Cllr Mark Nestor’s (FF) time as an elected representative. He praised Cllr Norton for her efforts on the day, “You might have thought you butchered it but as the Irish seanfhocail goes, ‘Is fearr Gaeilge briste no Gaeilge cliste’”.

Her future role as Deputy Mayor of the County Council was referenced by Cllr Pat Daly (FF) who jokingly suggested that Cllr Norton be rewarded with a six week holiday in the Aran Islands with her colleagues ferried out to check on her every weekend.

In tough circumstances, Cllr Norton carried herself very well, Cllr Mary Howard (FG) believed. “You had a great year, it was a difficult time. We still didn’t know what way was up when you became Mayor, we didn’t know if we were facing more lockdowns. We didn’t think we’d see war on Euro soil and were dealing with repercussions of that.

An “unbelievable service” has been provided by the outgoing Mayor, Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) commented. “Your list of accomplishments is very significant”.

Director of Service, Carmel Kirby pointed out that projects come to life during the tenures of different Mayors, she noted the Ashline housing development, the Parnell St laneways and bowways and the Ennis South Flood Relief Scheme were completed during her term. Her support for creating “a pedestrian safe town centre” was praised by the senior Council official.

Senior executive officer in the Ennis MD, Leonore O’Neill voiced the appreciation on behalf of the staff for the support shown by Cllr Norton in “advancing priorities we laid out”.

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