It was against a backdrop of somewhat controversial circumstances that Independent Cllr Leonard Kelly accepted the Mayoral chains of Wexford at County Hall on Monday. Having turned away from a pact that he had signed up to last year with councillors George Lawlor, Maura Bell and Garry Laffan, in recent months he decided that it didn't sit right with him and he withdrew.
Believing that its fairer if the first five candidates past the post each get a turn as Mayor, Cllr Kelly was proposed by Cllr Hegarty and received the support of councillors Forde and Hynes. While a proud day for Cllr Kelly and his family, it appears he has taken over a fragmented council with tensions still simmering away beneath the surface. Despite this, he was full of praise for outgoing Mayor George Lawlor, who was deprived a second term when Cllr Kelly left the pact.
Addressing Cllr Lawlor, the new Mayor said: 'Your work rate and commitment to the people you represent is without question. It has been mentioned to me in the last few weeks that whoever would take over from you, would have a task similar to the one faced by the successors to Gay Byrne and Alex Ferguson when then they were at their strongest. Well, it's up to me to take up the mayoral chains, and as you have walked proudly in your shoes, I too will walk proudly in mine. I will follow the lead you set in the first year of this current council term, and wear the chains with pride, dedication, heart and good humour. And in doing so work hard with, and for the people of this district and for county Wexford.'
Cllr Kelly made a point of his desire to draw a line under political in-fighting and work together going forward.
'The seven councillors here today come from different places, different ideologies,' he noted. 'Different parties and none. We have different strengths and experiences. I would hope that under my chair we spend our time working on our common goals, not spend time point scoring or focusing on our differences.
As Cllr Kelly begins his new role, it's in a completely different world, as we work to put Covid-19 behind us an rebuild society.
'We are now re-emerging as a society,' he said. 'This new normal we are all emerging into, is proving to be an anxious time for many. There will be challenges around how we as a council can ensure that we are ready to address the many issues to be faced. But we must continue to be relentless in supporting the individuals who we serve. Supporting the individuals, especially the more vulnerable among us. Supporting the civic and sporting groups, the arts and the businesses. Supporting the communities, in all their forms,' he said.
'We must ensure that the limited financial resources that the council will have in this year, and possibly in the years ahead will be clearly targeted towards those things that will have a marked and measurable positive impact on the people that we represent.'