*Photograph: Eamon Ward
Just over twelve months after becoming a county councillor for the first time, Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) has been elected as Cathaoirleach of the West Clare Municipal District.
Through Martin Lafferty, Lisdoonvarna has formed part of a colourful history on Clare County Council. That will be added to as, Cllr Garrihy unanimously received the backing of his colleagues on the West Clare MD to become Cathaoirleach on the proposal of Cllr Shane Talty (FF) and Cllr Gabriel Keating (FG).
Addressing Tuesday’s AGM, Garrihy said challenges lay ahead in the tourism and agriculture sectors across the District. “When you are facing into a challenge you like to know the people alongside you are up for the challenge, the changes made in the Municipal District will help us with that. We’ve a challenging year ahead, we’ve a good team, we’ve a big challenge to put our economy back on track, we won’t be able to do it alone, we will need Central Government and all Dáil representatives to make a strong case”.
He warned, “It is going to take us a number of years to recover”. The manager of the Lahinch Seaworld complex maintained that Moneypoint continued to present challenges and “the dependency on tourism shows the need to diversify” in North and West Clare. The creation of sustainable energy communities has been a subject referenced by Joe in the Council Chamber and it is an aim he reiterated upon taking on the new role.
Unity, focus and strategy is required within the Municipal District, Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) believed. “We have a huge opportunity with the appointment of a new engineer to become strategically focused”. “I am assured that Cllr Garrihy is up for the challenge, I love the way that you hold yourself in the Chamber”. He stated, “I have been accused of being anti other areas in the county, I’ve no problem with that because I’ve been voted in by the people of West Clare”.
Innovation was absent from the list of words required, Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) flagged. Adding his congratulations to Joe, he said, “I know you as a very strategic man with the community good in your heart, those two things on their own will be very good”. Cllr Shane Talty (FF) expressed his delight at getting to propose Cllr Garrihy and maintained there was a lot of work to get through in the District.
A bold approach is needed by Cllr Garrihy when he sits on the Corporate Policy Group, Cllr PJ Kelly (FF) maintained. “Challenges have come along, new challenges, the only certain thing we have at the moment is uncertainty. We have to be adaptable, use our heads and be extremely creative in responding to the various challenges that come up”.
“It is very exciting to walk into the room and see Joe Garrihy at the top table,” Cllr Roisin Garvey (GP) remarked as she apologised for her time-keeping. She recalled knowing the new Chair from his time as a community activist and highlighted the role all councillors play in their locality, “We are representing the people, our civil servants and Directors have a lot to do but it is important they remember we are the voices of the people”.
Local support needs to be pushed over the coming months, Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) told the meeting. He was confident the “strategic” new Cathaoirleach would “serve us well during the year and keep us on track”.
Cllr Gabriel Keating (FG) praised the mix of youth and experience within the Municipal District. “We have to be innovative and come up with schemes and projects as we move ahead,” he commented.