Council tributes to Ferris as she steps back from politics

Simon Brouder

Tributes to Toiréasa Ferris have been paid from across the political spectrum following the shock news that the Sinn Féin councillor is quitting politics with immediate effect.

Cllr Ferris - a member of Kerry County Council since she was co-opted to her father Martin's seat in 2003 - caused political shockwaves locally when she announced late last Tuesday that she was stepping down from Kerry County Council.

In June the former Mayor of Kerry - who topped the poll in Tralee at the 2014 local elections - had withdrawn as Sinn Féin's Kerry candidate for the next General Election.

Monday's monthly meeting of the Tralee Municipal District was her last and her council colleagues from all parties paid tribute to the "formidable" politician who "gave her heart and soul" to her county and its people.

Fianna Fáil's Norma Foley said Cllr Ferris will be long remembered for her "huge contribution" to Kerry.

"Toiréasa has always been a feisty, formidable and forthright politician who has been a huge presence in this chamber and in Kerry politics," said Cllr Foley.

" It's a huge decision and one that takes bravery but bravery is something you'd always associate with Toiréasa," Cllr Foley added.

Labour's Cllr Terry O'Brien said he was said to see his friend and colleague leave the chamber.

"I am very disappointed at Toiréasa's decision but I wish her and her family all the best. She has always given her heart and soul to everything," he said.

Deputy Mayor Cll Sam Locke also wished Cllr Ferris well and said he greeted her retirement after many years of dedicated public service with "great sadness".

Cllr Ferris Sinn Féin colleague Cllr Pa Daly said he and everyone in Sinn Féin were "devastated" to see her retire.

"Toiréasa went above and beyond the call of duty, almost 24hours a day, and like the Kerry team on Sunday she left nothing on the pitch," he said.

"She has always had a keen sense of justice and a desire for the common good of the people," said Cllr Daly.

On behalf of council management Director of Services John Breen thanked Cllr Ferris for her service to the people of Kerry and wished her the best for future.

"She certainly kept us on our toes but it was always for the common good," said Mr Breen.

Cllr Ferris thanked her colleagues and management for their kind words.

"I had someone else in mind but I think now it's a toss up between Norma and Pa for my eulogy," she joked.

"It was a very difficult decision for me and my family but It's the right one," she said.

Cllr Ferris also paid tribute to two particularly close friends - from across the political divide - that she had made during her time on the council.

"Jim Finucane and Terry O'Brien have been good friends and good colleagues to me and I would like to thank them," she said.

"When I came into this chamber 16 years ago the last thing I thought would be that two of my closest friends would be a 'blueshirt' and a councillor from Labour, a friend of Dick Spring no less," she joked to much laughter in the council chamber.

In many of their tributes her colleagues had praised Cllr Ferris' dedication to her constituents.

That was suitably demonstrated by her final remarks.

Cllr Ferris said that before leaving the chamber she was demanding assurances that the cases of two ill, elderly people - both waiting months for vital works to be carried out in their homes - would be dealt with as soon as possible.

"There's no way in good conscience that I can retire without resolving these two cases."