*Cllr Rita McInerney (FF). Photograph: Eamon Ward. 

CLLR RITA McInerney (FF) has made history by becoming the first female Cathaoirleach of the West Clare Municipal District.

Having come into being in 2014, the West Clare MD covers both the Kilrush local electoral area and the Ennistymon local electoral area. Over the last ten years, only Rita (2024) and Roisin Garvey (GP) in 2019 are the female representatives to have been elected in these LEAs.

Indeed there have been female Mayors of Kilrush Town Council such as Mairead O’Brien (IND) and Marian McMahon-Jones (FG) but the feat of Doonbeg woman Rita remains unique. She was proposed for the role at Monday’s AGM of the West Clare MD by Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) and seconded by Cllr Michael Shannon (FF). “It is a great honour to propose somebody especially a female,” commented Killeen.

Poll-topper in the Ennistymon LEA, Cllr Bill Slattery (FG) was elected Leas Cathaoirleach of the West Clare MD, he was put forward by Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) and supported by Cllr Killeen (FF).

As Rita took the chains of office from Cllr Ian Lynch (IND), the sound of a horse naying outside the Town Hall in Kilrush could be heard, not that this was signalling a revolution of sorts but it was also a unique development in itself.

Speaking at the AGM, Cllr McInerney said she “really appreciated this opportunity” to become the first Cathaoirleach in the West Clare MD for the new Council term. “It is very much in the spirit of cooperation and consolidation of what we have, we are very strong, we have a great mix of people and places we represent but from that point of view it is a challenge because it is a very large area”.

Co-opted to Clare County Council in January following the retirement of Bill Chambers (FF), Rita topped the poll in the local elections in June. She paid tribute to her predecessor Cllr Lynch for the welcome and support he gave during her first six months in the Council. “It is great to welcome new councillors and the ones returning, the staff and I’d like to mention Leonard (Cleary) who unfortunately moved on but has left a great legacy, there is strength in the Municipal District from the point of view of tourism and rural development”.

Both the Kilrush LEA and Ennistymon LEA share the similarities of tourism and rural matters but they have “different needs,” she outlined. Improving the road infrastructure in West Clare requires particular attention, she felt, “funding streams are there but we don’t seem to be able to access them”.

She continued, “West Clare is one of the most remote areas from a European perspective, we’re separated from the United Kingdom and we need to level that from an European Union perspective. Water services are of huge importance, water and wastewater is paramount to us developing, it is something we need to prioritise, the project in Cooraclare and other towns need to move on like Kilmihil roads and water need to be our priority”.

Looking ahead to the new term, the business owner acknowledged both Chambers and PJ Kelly (FF) who did not seek re-election along with Cillian Murphy (FF) and Liam Grant (GP) who lost their seats having done ‘trojan work’ over the past five years. “We will continue the good work that was done over the last five years and build on it”.

“History is made,” observed Cllr Lynch. “You are the first female to take on the Chair and it is our third term”. The Kilrush man noted her reference to Europe and said the town was trying to re-establish twinning links with France, “they are our nearest neighbour now in Europe”. He advised Cllr McInerney that she would an “enjoyable but busy twelve months”.

Further congratulations were echoed by Cllr Slattery who said he looked forward “to working with you for the betterment of the Municipal District”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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