The AGM of Bray Municipal District opened last Tuesday night with outgoing, and incoming, cathaoirleach, Cllr Anne Ferris, saying it was great to see everyone all looking so well and so healthy.
'The last time we were face to face was in March,' she said. 'It seems a lifetime ago.'
The members and officials were all seated at least two metres away from one another, with the press table also at a good distance. Cllr Ferris said that for safety reasons, the meeting, including the ordinary meeting, would be kept to two hours from start to finish.
A steward welcomed people as they arrived to escort them in a particular order. Gloves and masks were also made available.
Later, as officials from Wicklow County Council would arrive to present on a planning matter, two local officials vacated their seats, which were cleaned for their new occupants. The process was then done again for the local officials to return for the rest of the meeting.
Cllr Joe Behan thanked the district administrator David Forde and the staff for making the arrangements to allow them to meet. 'I know a lot of work and effort and thought went into it,' he said.
The AGM got under way and the first item of business was the election of the Cathaoirleach.
Cllr Joe Behan proposed Anne Ferris, who had stepped into the role of Cathaoirleach in February following the election of Steven Matthews to the Dáil.
'I want to take the opportunity to pay tribute to Deputy Matthews for his term of office as Cathaoirleach and to wish him well in his national career,' said Deputy Behan.
He said that Cllr Ferris had taken over the position at the onset of Covid-19. 'I am grateful for the way you kept us informed. There has been a lot of interaction between the eight of us which has been very positive.
'We've had a very controversial issue to deal with, and totally by Zoom. We did the best we could and I want to pay tribute to the way you united us as a group during a very challenging time, the most challenging time we have ever experience. You showed great leadership and it is only right you should continue for the year ahead.'
Cllr Aoife Flynn Kennedy seconded the proposal. 'You dealt with a really difficult situation recently, involving something hugely beneficial for the whole community,' she said. 'You have been very fair and very supportive, particularly to those of us new to the role.'
Cllr Ferris thanked Cllr Flynn Kennedy, and also Cllr Behan, whom she said she has known for over 25 years. They have served together as councillors over that time, apart from the periods when they were TDs. 'We may not always agree but we do share things in common and work well and effectively together. I have always considered him to be a friend of mine,' she said.
Cllr Ferris, too, paid tribute to Deputy Matthews. 'I always thought he was a great chair,' she said. 'Very fair, strong, straight and kept in touch with the local community. I wish him well in Dáil Eireann,' she said.
This was her third occasion in the chair for the local Bray council. 'I'm not new to it although it's still nerve-racking,' she said.
'I promise my door will always be open and I'll always be available.
'I will do my utmost to help people. You do have to make difficult decisions, which may not be popular around the constituency.'
Cllr Ferris said that it's hard to say what she intends to do for the coming year, due to the pandemic.
'I will be delighted to see Bray Town Centre open and shops open,' she said.
She paid tribute to district administrator David Forde and the staff for all the work they have done around Covid-19, including installing signs on the seafront and at People's Park, the Bray Bounce Back committee, shop local committee, and being available at a moment's notice to help anyone in the community.
Acting district manager Lorraine Gallagher congratulated Cllr Ferris on her re-election and said she is looking forward to working with her.
'Thank you all for putting your trust in me for another year,' said Cllr Ferris.