'Mayor' is looking forward to the challenges ahead
CATHAOIRLEACH of Killarney Municipal Area - it's a bit of a mouthful alright so that's why John Joe Culloty simply goes by the title of Mayor.
Of course it's not the only reason. Two months into the job the Fianna Fail man says that while it may only be a title, there's huge benefits in using the term Mayor instead of Cathaoirleach - the official title following Phil Hogan's directive.
We caught up with the Knocknaskeha man this week to discuss this and other issues...
So are you Cathaoirleach or Mayor?
"I can't really go up to someone and say 'I'm the Cathaoirleach but the reality is I'm the Mayor', so I use the term Mayor when meeting people face to face as agreed by councillors. Cathaoirleach will only be used in official documentation and written correspondence, in that respect we have no choice.
"The importance of the term 'Mayor' is unquantifiable in a tourism town like Killarney and I've already experienced this first hand on several occasions.
"For instance, when I was in the Cathedral one Sunday morning there was a choir from US and they were taking photos afterwards when the church was empty. I went up and introduced myself as Mayor of Killarney Municipal District and they were so taken aback that the first citizen had met them in person.
"The point is that if I said I'm Cathaoirleach of the Killarney Municipal District it wouldn't mean anything to them."
The district's first citizen was given the nod to use the term 'Mayor' at the first meeting of the municipal district after District Manager John Breen said there was nothing in statute preventing its 'honourary' use. This was backed by all councillors, however when it came to an annual allowance of €6,000 for the role, the support wasn't unanimous.
Can you justify this payment?
"I'm certainly not there for the money but there is certainly more statutory responsibility attached to the role now than when it was unpaid.
"You're also taking time off work which allows me to attend more functions and represent the municipal district in a wider capacity - if I was mayor before any payment was introduced I wouldn't have been able to do that.
"I understand why people may raise concerns over payments but when you break it down, the figure is before tax, our €4,000 conference budget is gone and the reality is that the figure won't cover everything that I'll be doing over the year.
"It allows me to carry out my duties in a professional manner and if a mayor is doing his or her job it should be money well spent."
You have previously been vocal on the issue of Christian emblems in municipal buildings. What is your current stance?
"To be honest, I feel it's almost like we're being de-Christianised. It starts off with not being able to display the symbols of our faith even though there are references to our faith in the constitution.
"It's my own view but I haven't yet met anyone who has had problem with it, so I feel I represent the views of the majority.
"I feel there are a small number of people driving this agenda, including parts of the media. I recently read an article stating that society has moved on, I have no doubt it has moved on but it is the direction that's bothering me.
"I'm not a perfect Christian, I'm flawed like the most of us, and so I would look for the signposts when I go off-track. It particularly worries me that the Taoiseach and President made no mention of Christianity in their Christmas messages, that's like being in the Hogan Stand on All-Ireland Day and not talking about football."
What are the main priorities during your term?
"There's a big problem in the Tullig area of Castleisland regarding flooding and relatively minor works would rectify this.
"I also find the current speed limits disturbing, the way the NRA is delaying on sections such as the Lewis Road junction and Glenflesk.
"If speed was reduced to 60 kmph there it would be so much safer. Gardaí, Kerry County Council and the people of Killarney support this and I feel councils should be allowed to reduce speed limits. The difference in driving time on the Bypass would be just 25 seconds, so it beggars.
"I would also love to see the Lough Leane Loop Walk completed as well as it would be a fantastic asset for Killarney and, of course, there's also the very important issue of the return of a second full-time ambulance to Killarney."
You're two months into the job so have you got used to the position?
"I do feel comfortable in the role now, I expected the hard work and while there are less meetings and in August I've still been kept fairly busy and am looking forward to the challenges ahead."
Indeed, the self-employed builder has had an eventful few weeks at home, too, and there are congratulations in order after his daughter, Alice, was accepted into Early Years and Childhood Studies in UCC.
Joining the celebrations were John Joe's wife, Mary, and son, Jason, who is now in his third year of Primary Teaching in Mary Immaculate.
Indeed, Alice was kept busy as she waited on her results after collecting a gold and two silvers at the the All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil with Killarney CCE.