CLLR Paul O’Brien was bursting with pride on Monday afternoon after being elected as the new Cathaoirleach of Wicklow Municipal District.
His family, including his parents, were watching on from the Council Chamber as outgoing Cathaoirleach, Cllr Gail Dunne, passed the chain of office onto Cllr O’Brien.
“I was the youngest Chairman of the Referees of Wicklow and then the youngest Chairman of the Irish Soccer Referees Society, but I have to say today is very special,” stated Cllr O’Brien.
“I am glad to have my family with me here today. It’s quite an emotional day but it’s a very gratifying job and I have to say I never thought I would have the role.”
As well as paying tribute to his family and parents, he also took time to remember his late grandparents Digger and Lil O’Brien, and John and Nancy O’Neill.
“Nancy was Wicklow through and through and she always said I was mad to get into politics. She sadly passed away just before I was elected, and she would still say I am mad to get into politics, but I know she would be sitting here in the Council Chamber now so proud of me.”
He also praised the Council and District officials, commenting: “I often describe them as the unsung heroes of democracy. They get the blame when things don’t go right, while we tend to get the credit when things go well.”
Cllr O’Brien added: “I do believe we work well as a unit in this District, and we haven’t been afraid to make some difficult decisions in relation to the town. My phone will always be on and I will continue to work on behalf of the whole district, and not just the town.”
Cllr Dunne stated; “Anyone who knows him knows how hard he works. He has been a breath of fresh air to our District since he was elected. He is a proud Wicklow town man who really cares about the District.”
He added: “I played football with his father when we won the Wicklow Cup around 40 years ago. Obviously we were very young.”
Cllr Shay Cullen commented: “He spent the last year as Leas-Cathaoirleach and at times he stepped to the chair and did a fantastic job. His personality and how he works with people is excellent and I think he has been a wonderful part of our team here.”
Cllr John Snell stated: “I congratulate you on your achievement. I have known him for many years and he has been hugely popular in everything he has done to date, both in politics, refereeing and the voluntary and community section.
“You are here in the County Buildings as much as staff members to be honest, and you really put your shoulder to the wheel. Your family are deeply entrenched in the heritage of Wicklow town and more importantly you are a County Wicklow person, who will serve the needs of the whole District.”
Cllr Irene Winters said: “I have no doubt you will do a fantastic job. You have been involved in the community and goings-on in County Wicklow as long as I have known you. I know your priority has always been to ensure that Wicklow and the District is a good place to live, work and play. I hope you won’t have to use your refereeing skills too much when chairing the meetings.”
Cllr Mary Kavanagh said: “I wish him all the best for the coming year.”
Cllr Winters was elected uncontested to the role of Leas-Cathaoirleach.