Sean bows out of political life as tributes pour in
"Parting is such sweet sorrow" - Sinn Fein County Councillor Sean MacManus evoked Shakespeare in his farewell to Sligo County Council yesterday after almost 23 years as a public representative.
17 Councillors paid tribute to their colleague, as his wife Helen, son Chris, and Council officials past and present watched on from the public gallery.
In a magnanimous and emotional speech, Cllr MacManus took the opportunity to thank his colleagues and council staff for their support and help over the past two decades, spoke about his proudest moments and modestly played down his role in the Peace Process.
"When I first entered politics it was with some reluctance. I never saw myself as serving over 23 years. I thought I might get two terms but that morphed into five terms into what is now a full time job," he told the chamber.
He said the reason he has decided to retire was to spend more time with his family and friends but stressed that he would still be working behind the scenes with Sinn Fein.
"I have been involved in Republican politics for the past 45 years, serving as National Chairman of Sinn Fein twice,
"I've had the opportunity to visit parts of the world I might not have otherwise seen, although most of the time it was in meetings, taxis or airports.
"I've met Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ambassadors and various hues of revolutionaries and many other great humble people.
"My input into the negotiations of the Peace Process, while it's still slow and much is outstanding, we'd all agree that serious progress has been made and I'm proud to say I've played a small part of that," he said.
"I remain an undaunted Republican, looking for a more equitable society for our people. I pride myself that I did not force these views on anybody over the course of my time as a public representative," he said.
Cllr MacManus decried the way the profession of politician has come under fire in recent years.
He said politicians are "denigrated, attacked and undermined" by sections of the national media who have "heaped vitriol on elected politicians and politics in general".
"Blame is heaped on them, every ill of society is laid at the door of politicians. It's all our fault," he said.
He admitted there was an insignificant minority of people who brought the profession into disrepute but added that there were hundreds of "conscientious and diligent" politicians doing their utmost to help those they were elected to serve."
He had words of support for his former colleagues: "We do our best and we do make a difference. We should never hesitate to remember that reality.
"We are proud of the work that we do."
Cllr MacManus recalled his time as Mayor of Sligo twice as among the highlights of his career.
"To become First Citizen of this beautiful place is something I'll always treasure."
"It's my hope to continue to play a role in my party. I don't intend to ride of into the sunset just yet.
"Amid the excitement and possibility, I do feel a wistfulness about leaving this chamber. Despite all my soul-searching nothing has prepared me for it.
"Parting is such sweet sorrow" - for me, the sweet part is Strandhill, the beach, Knocknarea and the freedom. The sorrow is the farewells.
Slan agaibh but I'm not saying goodbye, as I'll see you all again," he said to a standing ovation.