Councillor Michael 'Stroke' Fahy returned to a hero's welcome when he attended his first meeting of Galway County Council yesterday less than a week after being released from jail.
It was back to business as usual for the independent councillor after the Court of Criminal Appeal last week set aside his conviction for fraud and attempted theft, and ordered that a retrial take place.
Cllr Fahy spent seven months in jail having been sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment. He was also fined €75,000 after he was found guilty at Galway Circuit Criminal Court of misappropriating county council funds and attempted theft.
The 56-year-old, who resigned from Fianna Fail when he was first charged, declined to speak to reporters as he entered County Hall, but once he was inside the building he was greeted by colleagues from all parties.
Cllr Fahy is the longest serving member of Galway County Council having been elected a Fianna Fail councillor at every local contest since his first elevation to the council in 1979.
A large number of photographers, camera men and reporters followed his every move as councillors came over to greet him.
During an address, Cllr Fahy congratulated Galway County Council on a number of initiatives carried out over the past few months. Cllr Fahy said he was particularly pleased that the council had appointed its first female county manager and he looked forward to the day when Martina Moloney might be welcoming America's first lady president to Galway, if Senator Hillary Clinton is successful.
Ms Moloney was appointed while Cllr Fahy was serving his sentence in Castlerea Prison.
Mayor Canny and his deputy, Cllr Sean Kyne, who took up office during the summer, were also congratulated on their election by Cllr Fahy.
Cllr Fahy did not refer to his own absence -- he last attended a meeting of Galway County Council on February 26 this year before beginning his jail sentence -- but noted other developments such as the green light for the re-opening of the Athenry-Limerick railway line.
But he noted that crime rates had risen, especially in the last few months.
He said: "It is just not good enough that people who are out at the shops or at Mass come home to find their houses ransacked. The people who do this sort of crime need to be caught and punished.
"I am proposing that we write to the Garda Commissioner and the Chief Superintendent demanding that every effort is made to bring these culprits to justice," said Cllr Fahy, whose speech was greeted by applause, largely by the Fianna Fail members.