PROGRESSING East Clare projects, including Inis Cealtra and the Killaloe bridge and bypass, have been identified by the incoming cathaoirleach of the district as key priorities for the coming year.
On Thursday last, Councillor Joe Cooney took over the role of Killaloe Municipal District chair from Councillor Pat Hayes, with both men welcoming the return of in-person meetings after long months of lockdown and remote communication.
The Fine Gael member was proposed for the role by party colleague Councillor Pat Burke and seconded by Fianna Fáil’s Councillor Tony O’Brien.
This is Councillor Cooney’s second term as chair, having previously held the role in 2013. “I’m looking forward to the challenge,” he said. “I’ll be there to work with other councillors to achieve as much as we can. There are some major projects in the district, including the Killaloe bridge and bypass and Inis Cealtra. A lot achieved and we will work to achieve more. These projects will take time and funding, but we are on the right track and they will be achieved.”
The Bodyke native also highlighted the need for better infrastructure for rural towns and villages. “We’re all working hard on that and will continue to do so,” he said. “Our new County Development Plan is at draft stage. We will be working over the next number of months because it’s vital for our county. Besides that, roads and paths and hedge-cutting are always in the limelight and will be keeping them high on the agenda. We will keep achieving for Killaloe Municipal District.”
Councillor Cooney also paid tribute to the outgoing cathaoirleach. “Councillor Hayes did a fantastic job,” he said. “Over the last year, he has taken us through a big challenge. We have to leave our chamber and move to Zoom. We rose to the challenge and that’s thanks to Pat for keeping balance. It’s very, very important. We all work hard to try and achieve for the people of the district. It is important to have a good person at the top, well done Pat.”
Councillor Cooney described the officials in the district as “a fantastic team”.
Councillor Hayes agreed that the last year had been challenging. “We had a great response from the Killaloe district and the people in coming together and working to support communities to look after each other,” he said. “It has been a very challenging year for business across our district. The hospitality sector, in particular, has suffered. In the background though, the Killaloe district and county council have been planning, and the Inis Cealtra project and the bypass are progressing. We have been on the back foot in the past, but the key strength is the unity of the councillors working together for the development of the area. Plans will come to fruition in the coming months and be implemented in the coming years. As councillors, we have great working relationship, cross-party and that’s very important exercise for us in this vast area.”
Councillor Burke thanked Councillor Hayes for his work. “You got into the swing of remote meetings,” he said. “We missed meeting face to face and you did your best to accommodate us. We’re making progress. Well done to you.”
Councillor Tony O’Brien said it had been “a tough year all around”. “Thanks for your work and to other members and executive,” he said. “We have benefited from a proactive approach to the challenges we face.”
The role of leas cathaoirleach transferred from Councillor Cooney to Councillor Alan O’Callaghan.
“Thanks to Pat for contribution over last 12 months,” the Fianna Fáil member said. “We are the smallest district, but definitely the strongest. We do what we need to do. We have a great director and officials. Congratulations to Joe. He works hard and is honest man. He is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get things done.”
Director of Services Anne Haugh commended the outgoing cathaoirleach for his work during a challenging year. “He performed admirably, and testament to that is the amount of funding we’ve achieved, and the way we’ve conducted our business in a seamless fashion, she said. “It has been a pleasure working with you.”
Ms Haugh welcomed Councillor Cooney to his role. “I have experience of working with you in your role as chair of an SPC and I’m looking forward very much to working with you and with Councillor O’Callaghan.”
Senior Executive Officer (SEO) Morgan Lahiffe also commended the work rate of members.
“Personally and on behalf of Niamh [Madden, Senior Engineer], thanks for close working relationship with Councillor Hayes and we hope to continue to achieve for Killaloe district,” he said.