THE welcome “with open arms” which has been given to the people of Ukraine has been praised by Ennis’ outgoing mayor as she reflected on her year in office. Councillor Ann Norton recalled “a very good and very positive year” as the county capital’s first citizen at the AGM of the Ennis Municipal District on Friday.
She revealed that on the morning before handing over the chains of office she paid a visit to the children of Ennis Educate Together, which has welcomed 44 children from Ukraine in recent months.
“We have a war still going on in Ukraine and we have many Ukrainian people now living in County Clare.
“We have a huge amount of them in Ennis. I am the chairperson of Ennis Educate Together and we have taken 44 children into the school.
“Before I finished and handed over the chains I wanted to go in and talk to them and see how they are doing and it is lovely to see they have settled.
“It must be extremely difficult for them knowing that some of their friends and families are still in Ukraine.
“But it is wonderful to know that as an Irish community we are open to take on so much, to give so much support, and to welcome so many people with open arms. We are here to help. We are here to support them. And they are very very welcome.”
She paid tribute to her council colleagues for their support during her term.
“I know that we were coming out of a very difficult time when I took over as mayor Ennis in June of last year, and thankfully, things have some bit reduced around Covid. We are still conscious of the pandemic, but our numbers have reduced and we are back to some bit of normality, back in face-to-face contact.
“I’d like to say that I had a very good and very positive year as mayor, and it was great for me to have the opportunity to organise some wonderful events over the last year, so many positive things have happened in the Ennis Municipal District, and it is lovely to be the mayor of Ennis.”
When she took on the role last year she outlined her intention to focus on the important role of carers in the community.
“I wanted to acknowledge the work that they do behind the scenes. The majority of carers work 24/7 and unfortunately, a lot of them don’t get any acknowledgement for what they do.”
Recently she was “honoured” to organise an afternoon tea event where 150 carers were entertained from across the county.
As mayor “you have to put yourself out there and do your best” in all kinds of situations, she said remembering the visit of Minister of State Jack Chambers to launch Ennis’ Irish language plan.
“He was a gaeilgeoir and I have absolutely no Irish,” she said. However she still went on to deliver a speech, saying, “At the end an older gentleman came up while we were having lunch and said to me, you made the effort and that’s all we want.”
One of the highlights of the year was the hosting of fundraising mayoral ball with Councillor PJ Ryan.
Describing the night as “extremely successful”, she outlined that €18,000 was raised for Sláinte an Chláir and Clare Crusaders Children’s Clinic.
Another memorable moment has been the recent Promoting Gender Equality & Diversity in Local Government event held in glór.
She said this marked a “great opportunity” to sit down with colleagues, but also the younger generation to give an insight into politics and to encourage them to register to vote and make their voices heard.
She paid tribute to her family for their support during her year as mayor saying without that, “I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I have”.
She expressed thanks to the council executive and staff for their support as well as her fellow councillors including deputy mayor Councillor Paul Murphy who filled in for her at a number of events.
Councillor Murphy commented that Councillor Norton, “carried the role brilliantly”. “You are always dignified, fair and inclusive to all,” he said.
Other momentous occasions for the town in which Councillor Norton represented Ennis was the recent visit of President Michael D Higgins, with Councillor Murphy saying the mayor “prepared diligently…I thought you were outstanding”.
Referring to Councillor Norton’s comments about her Irish language skills, Councillor Murphy commented, “You were fantastic that day because it took guts to stand up and we’re all only trying to get our cúpla focail back.”
He also thanked her for inviting his mother to the event honouring carers. He added that the mayors’ ball was a “great night, and a kick in the ass for Covid as well”.
Incoming mayor, Councillor Clare Colleran Molloy applauded her predecessor for being “steadfast in your commitment and your energy”.
Councillor Mark Nestor congratulated her on her successful year as mayor, saying one of his highlights was the launching of the Irish language plan for Ennis.
He said while the mayor might believe she “butchered” the Irish speech, he told her “you have a lovely seanfhocail. I think it’s really important that we acknowledge this, Is fearr Gaeilge briste, ná Béarla clíste. As long as we have the cupla focial that will do.”
Councillor Pat Daly described her as “a very fair and positive mayor”, and jokingly proposed to send her to the Aran Islands for a month to brush up on her gaeilge.
Councillor Mary Howard commented, “You’ve had a great year”, recalling when she started the term as mayor, “It was a difficult time. We had just come up from Covid, we still didn’t know what way was up. Covid threw a lot of curveballs and we didn’t know if we were going to be facing more or lockdowns or whatever.
“Then we didn’t think we’d see a war on European soil and now we are dealing with the repercussions of that.
“I think everybody needs to put the shoulder to the wheel to ensure that those people feel safe and that the children can thrive for whatever length of time they are here.”
She added that the visit to Educate Together “won’t be forgotten” by the children.
Councillor Johnny Flynn stated that the list of Councillor Norton’s accomplishments is “very, very significant” thanking her and her family for their “unbelievable service”.
Director of Service Carmel Kirby acknowledged a “really great year” working together with the other councillors for the town.
She particularly mentioned “the leadership you showed along with all the councillors here in terms of dealing with Covid and creating a pedestrian friendly safe town centre, which was reflected in in the summer of 2021 in terms of the great tourist season that we had.”