Veronica Cawley was yesterday elected as the new Cathaoirleach (Leader) of Sligo County Council (SCC).
A vote of 14 to 8 with one abstention, secured the position for the mother-of-five and current deputy mayor of Sligo town, at the council's AGM in the Riverside Council Chamber.
Cllr Cawley, a former Labour councillor, has been an Independent since being ousted by the party over her decision to challenge their selection of the now Senator Susan O'Keeffe as the preferred candidate in the 2011 general election.
She was proposed by Labour Councillor Jimmy McGarry for the position who in a glowing tribute to his former party colleague opened his proposal by reminding all that she had been a Labour party member since 1993. He did not however mention her expulsion from the same party.
This has fuelled recent speculation that the door has been reopened for Cllr Cawley's return to the fold and that the 'welcoming mat' has already been dusted . Resplendent in Labour red, the newly elected Cathaoirleach wasted no time in reminding all present that during her tenure she expected all council members to treat each other with respect and dignity.
Looking towards the Public Gallery where her husband John was seated with family and friends, she said, ‘This is a special honour for me, a proud day for my family, friends and supporters, and I will try to carry out my functions and responsibilities to the best of my ability.' €77m 'In The Red'
Cllr Cawley also stated that it was going to be a challenging year as 'the current financial situation leaves very difficult decisions to make that will impact on the public in terms of services and funding'. SCC is currently over €77m 'in the red'.
‘While it might be difficult at times to focus on the positives, I believe there are some grounds for optimism. Community spirit was never more thriving, and our county’s volunteers are a source of pride and inspiration to the wider community.
'I believe we have great potential in the area of tourism; Sligo is one of the most beautiful, scenic counties in Ireland, with a cultural heritage that is renowned the world over. By working in partnership with other key local agencies, we can promote County Sligo at home and abroad, and if we are successful in this endeavour, it should see an increase in visitor numbers.'
Cllr cawley continued, '‘While we are operating with very limited resources, we should strive to do all we can to encourage and support local enterprise. The Sligo County Enterprise Board, the IDA and other organizations are working in a difficult, competitive environment, and I believe this Council should support them in any way it can.’
Her appointment was seconded by Fine Gael's David Cawley (no relation) who on Monday will be elected at Sligo Borough Council's AGM in City Hall as Mayor of Sligo.'Not Bad Looking'
The position on Sligo County Council of Leas-Cathaoirleach (Vice-Chair) was filled by Collaney's Cllr Dara Mulvey, a Fine Gael member and brother-in-law of Minister of State, John Perry. He was proposed by Cllr Mary Barrett (FG) who described him as young, enthusiastic, hard-working and 'not bad looking either'. Incoming Leas-Cathaoirleach Dara Mulvey (FG) receives his chain of office from outgoing Leas-Cathaoirleach Matt Lyons (FG). Photo:Charlie Brady Photography
The outgoing Cathaoirleach, Michael Fleming (FG) and Leas-Cathaoirleach, Matt Lyons (FG) were praised by the council members for their hard work and diligence during their terms of office.
The Fianna Fáil nominations for both positions were Cllr Joe Queenan and Cllr Patsy Barry.
While welcoming the Chair back to north Sligo, Cllr Barry said he thought he might have succeeded until he remembered the Lotto advert about 'more chance of being attacked by a bear.'