Newly elected TD Malcolm Byrne paid a final visit to Wexford County Council's chambers at the December meeting to bid his colleagues a fond farewell as his focus shifts to Leinster House.
Having emerged victorious in the recent by-election for Mick Wallace's vacant seat, Deputy Byrne was welcomed back to the chamber by his Fianna Fáil colleague and County Council Chairman Cllr Michael Sheehan.
'On behalf of the council, I'd like to congratulate you on your success,' Cllr Sheehan said. 'It's an honour to have you back here as a deputy for county Wexford. It's never an easy thing to put your name down on that ballot paper, so well done.'
Deputy Byrne thanked his colleagues for the opportunity to address them and had particular words of praise for councillors George Lawlor and Jim Codd who had also contested the by-election.
'I've always enjoyed my time in the county council,' Deputy Byrne said. 'I think we've always worked together in a collegial and friendly way. Although we regularly have our differences, it was never taken personally and we worked as a team.'
While the Gorey native's focus may now have shifted to national politics, he was firm in his commitment to furthering the cause of local government.
'I think local government gets a raw deal,' he said. 'Central government is constantly taking powers away. This council has put in 120 years of excellent service to the people of Wexford. We don't want to see it continue to lose its power and I will fight for this as a TD.'
Deputy Byrne thanked the council staff for their assistance over the years, before signing off by saying: 'I've no idea how long this new role will last. But I hope to be able to continue to work with you all regardless and don't be afraid to lift the phone or send me an email.'
Chief Executive of Wexford County Council Tom Enright also paid tribute to the outgoing councillor.
'It's been an honour to have you as a member of this council,' he said.
'I'd like to thank you for your support since I came, particularly when you were County Council Chairman. Congratulations to you and your family and I wish you every success in the future.'
Among those to pay tribute to the new deputy was party colleague Barbara Anne Murphy pointed out it had taken 'a little longer than expected' for Malcolm to make it to the Dáil, but that she was delighted to see it finally happen.
Cllr George Lawlor, who finished runner-up in the by-election, once again expressed his admiration for the winner.
'As I've said already, to lose to Malcolm is an honourable position to be in,' he said.
'He's an exceptional candidate. You could see how much this win meant to his parents and family. I look forward to sparring with you again in years to come. You will be missed in this chamber, where you were so often the voice of reason, but also a voice of controversy at times! The very best of luck.'
Also having contested the by-election, Cllr Jim Codd said:
'Malcolm is a very hard man to rattle and knock off the ball. I'm sure he'll do very well and I wish him the best.'
Cllr Joe Sullivan said that Malcolm had always appeared 'destined for higher office' while Cllr Michael Whelan spoke of how nice it was that Deputy Byrne had taken inspiration from his late brother Noel in the run-in to the by-election.
Cllr Tom Forde said that while he and Malcolm had 'many political differences' he 'really admired' his campaign and how he stuck to the issues affecting the people of Wexford in the face of some controversy that had engulfed the Wexford race.
Following the tributes from his colleague, Deputy Byrne departed the council chamber to a round of applause.