independent

Friday 31 October 2014

Made vital contribution in very difficult times

Published 09/01/2013 | 10:11

A COLLEAGUE who worked with Paddy Lavin for many years remarked this week that the former Louth County Manager had the 'most pleasant countenance you would ever want to meet in a person'.

It was a quality that was needed and stood to Paddy during his tenure in Louth, especially the twelve years when he was at the helm of local government in the county.

Unlike the 'Celtic Tiger' years, the late 1970's and early 1980's were dominated by the turmoil that followed the abolition of domestic rates and the consequent reduction in funding for local government.

Managing the growing public expectation to improve, never mind retain, vital public services on drastically reduced revenues was an impossible job, and one Paddy Lavin had to confront, especially in the hungry early 1980's in Louth.

With ever more fractious public representatives baying at his heels and taking out their frustrations at local authority meetings, Paddy's task of meeting the demands of his bosses in Custom House to squeeze more and more out of diminishing resources took extraordinary demands on his time and energy.

Adding to the pressure was Louth's unique status between the urban and rural divide, for with the two large and competing towns, Drogheda and Dundalk in the troughs of the worst depression they had ever encountered, the returns from one of the few revenue streams available to local authorities, business rates, was dwindling to a trickle.

Indeed it was no secret that Louth County Council with an overdraft of £6m was bankrupt and was only allowed to trade because it was a public body.

For all of those reasons Louth was fortunate to have Paddy Lavin at the helm. His calm exterior and unflappable image was vital in representing to the people of the county a semblance of normality.

Angry and disheartened councillors had to be kept on board, and staff disillusioned by lack of opportunities and limited salaries had to be motivated to perform to their best.

It was an unenviable task, but one that Paddy Lavin performed with admirable dexterity to guide the county through one of its most difficult periods in local government history.

In the end the sheer pressure, and his basic humanity after he was forced by his department to let staff go, led Paddy to the conclusion that he could contribute no more. His friends and family were grateful that he got adequate time to enjoy his two passions in life, the GAA and golf, and it is right that history should record the vital contribution that he made to sustaining the quality of public services that we too often take for granted.

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