Sunday 19 November 2017

The new mayor has no chain of office. Does the title merit one?

IT was notable when President Michael D Higgins was welcomed to Sligo by Mayor Tom MacSharry last week that the latter was not wearing a chain.

It was as formal an occasion you could have, the country's President being welcomed to officially open the All Ireland Fleadh.

Apparently Clr MacSharry can't use the old mayoral chain, which had been in use by the now abolished Borough Council since 1882.

The Borough Council council met for the last time on May 2nd in advance of the local elections in May that saw one county council being elected.

It has now emerged that the outgoing Borough Council met in the mayor's parlour prior to holding their last formal public gathering.

At this private session the issue of what to do with the historic mayoral chain came up.

Councillors voted that they would donate the chain along with the deputy's mayor's chain and ceremonial maces to the County Museum.

It is understood councillors didn't want the new county council taking ownership of the chains.

The thinking behind the move was that the mayoral chain was presented to the Borough Council/Sligo Corporation in 1882 and as this body was being scrapped so too should the use of the chain.

One councillor, who didn't wish to be named, said: "It was felt that to give the chain to the County Council would be at variance with the wishes of Bernard Collery, who donated it to the Corporation."

The outgoing Mayor, Clr Marcella McGarry, wrote to inform the council executive of this decision.

The chain is said to be currently in safe keeping and has not yet found its way to the County Museum.

However, preparations are under way to display the chain and maces at the museum.

When the current World War One exhibition ends in September the chains are set to go on public viewing.

The mayor's chain is such a valuable piece that security will be a significant concern.

The situation leaves Clr MacSharry without a chain and he won't have one unless a new one is commissioned.

The other question, of course, is: does the present title deserve one?

Clr MacSharry is chairman of a subcommittee of the County Council, a ten-seat Municipal District. This area runs roughly from Cliffoney to Collooney.

At its second meeting in July the members of this new body voted to call its chairperson "mayor".

In a strict sense Clr MacSharry is not the mayor of Sligo but of a subcommittee representing a number of towns and villages, with Sligo obviously being the largest.

All of the Borough Council's functions have been taken over by the new County Council.

The new 10-seat Municipal District has apparently little or no statutory powers apart from making amendments to the Litter Act.

Even at last week's official opening of the fleadh Clr MacSharry wasn't asked to speak.

In previous years the first citizen would always be the first public representative to take the microphone.

But the new protocol, as happened last week, is for the county council chairman, Clr Joe Queenan, to take centre stage.

So, we have a municipal authority that holds its meetings in City Hall and which has elected a mayor.

Yet, there's no formal recognition of this title in the form of a ceremonial chain.

When and if Clr MacSharry hosts a reception, is he to continue turning up representing his district in just a shirt and tie?

Sligo Champion

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