A FORMER Bus Eireann bus inspector from Killaloe has driven to the top of Clare County Council.
Councillor Tony O’Brien was elected unopposed as Clare’s next first citizen without a vote as part of the power-sharing arrangement that was first brokered in 2004 at the annual general meeting in Ennis on Friday.
The former Smith O’Brien GAA club secretary replaced Councillor P J Ryan, who was lauded for being a great ambassador for the county over the past year.
Councillor O’Brien was proposed by his Fianna Fáil colleague, Councillor Pat Hayes and seconded by Joe Cooney, Fine Gael, while Councillor Gerry Flynn, Independent also expressed his support.
Councillor Ann Norton was elected as vice-chairperson for the next year, succeeding Councillor Joe Killeen.
In his wide-ranging address following his election, Councillor O’Brien pledged to work in partnership with the Shannon Group to attract further investment and more traffic through Shannon Airport.
The Killaloe resident promised to continue progressing the proposed takeover of the Shannon Heritage Tourist sites, to work in collaboration with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) for the upgrading of the road serving Shannon Airport and to continue working on the development of the
Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) in South-East Clare, working in partnership with the University of Limerick.
He emphasised the importance of the recently opened Ennis South Flood Relief Scheme and working providing the new Springfield Flood Defence embankment.
Stressing the importance of the new Shannon River Crossing, he acknowledged certain difficulties still remain to be ironed out following the appointment of John Sisk as the main contractor by the council, which is taking the lead role in progressing this project.
He urged Clare’s Oireachtas members to ensure that all that is necessary is done to commence this project immediately.
“Its necessity and importance to the entire east Clare region cannot be overstated,” he said.
He criticised the removal of Phase Two of the Limerick Northern Distributor Road (LNDR) from the Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy as “nothing short of disgraceful”.
“I commit to have this re-investigated and campaign to have it reintroduced as per the Clare County Development Plan.”
He said he wouldn’t be making any grandiose political promises.
“My commitment is to continue to work for and on behalf of all the people of County Clare. To continue the work on the many projects which are currently ongoing. To continue the promotion and marketing of our great county and all that we have to offer, from the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher to Loop Head Lighthouse across to Inis Cealtra/Holy Island on the majestic river Shannon. And not forgetting the highest peak in the Banner, the beautiful mountainous landscape of Moylussa heading into the gateway to County Clare from the east, the historic town of Killaloe and everything in between.
“The bringing together of the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. And when all the beauty and tranquillity is seen and enjoyed, it is people that make our county so special.
I would like to acknowledge the wonderful community spirit in our county, which is evident in the support that groups and volunteers are providing to displaced Ukrainians here, who have got a great welcome in the county.
Thanking his colleagues for bestowing this great honour as council chairman, he accepted it
not only in a personal capacity but also on behalf of all his family, friends, Killaloe parish and its people, and the little spot he calls heaven, The Cross Roads.
He paid tribute to his wife, Majealla, for her “undying support” whether it is politics, their beloved Smith O’Briens GAA club, and community work.
He thanked his children Shane, Elain, son-in-law, Conor and his extended family for all their support and mentioned his grandchildren Lucy, Billy, Maisy and Finn.
He recalled a good friend told him your real friends back you even when you are wrong.
He thanked all his friends and colleagues from Bus Éireann and the NBRU.
Concluding he remembered with great pride his father, Billy, another bus driver, and his
grandparents, Willy and Mary O’Brien, who reared him on the cross roads in Killaloe.
Several councillors wished Councillor P J Ryan’s wife, Mary a speedy recovery after he had earlier thanked her and his family for their support during the year.