Cllr Marie Fitzpatrick was unanimously selected as chairwoman of Kilkenny County Council at the council’s annual general meeting on Friday afternoon.
The Labour Party member, who has also served two term’s as the city’s mayor, took up the chain of office as outgoing chairman Paul Cuddihy’s term came to an end.
Fianna Fáil, which typically proposes a candidate to run against the member nominated by the Fine Gael, Labour and Green group, refrained from doing so “in light of the courage shown by Kilkenny Borough Council last week in allowing our colleague John Coonan to become deputy mayor,” Cllr Matt Doran said.
Cllr Fitzpatrick was nominated for the post by Cllr Michael O’Brien, who praised her community, education and youth work and lauded her as “somebody who we can all look up to.”
In accepting the role, the new chairwoman said: “I have to be honest and say that never in my wildest dreams could I have envisaged my political life would be so fulfilled my reaching this office as your leader of local government throughout Kilkenny. I am so proud, as someone who became a councillor at what many would consider to be a later stage, to have reached the point when colleagues from all parties would support me in my new office.”
She paid tribute to the support she received from former TD Seamus Pattison and the late Cllr Joe Cody when she entered politics as “a natural extension of my earlier interest in working within my community.”
“I am also humbled by the realisation that for the next 12 months my public interest will be widely shared with people from Urlingford to Glenmore and from Callan across the county to Graignamanagh,” Cllr Fitzpatrick said. “I am looking forward now to the challenge of responding to the many issues of concern at this time in our country’s economic difficulties, but I am comforted by the fact that I am surrounded with so many positive people, elected, management and staff in this council.”
With several of her family members present for the occasion, including three grandchildren, she said: “I have been reminded that today is also in important day for my family. We have come a long way together. It was often a struggle – but we survived.”
For the year ahead, she vowed that her term as chairwoman would be “marked by a solid commitment to build on what we have developed, to seek out new opportunities on behalf of those we serve, to keep the team spirit of this council to achieve our goals, and most of all to project a progressive image of Kilkenny and of its people.”
She was welcomed to the post by Fine Gael’s Cllr Mary Hilda Cavanagh, who said that, among other issues, she hoped Cllr Cavanagh would bring her interest in self-sufficiency gardening to the fore. “Gardening is about hard work but there is great satisfaction in it and it is something I would like to see you promote during your year,” she said.
Cllr Andrew McGuinness (FF) said he was “absolutely delighted” to see Cllr Fitzpatrick in the role of chairwoman and told her he has “always admired how you carry out the work at grass-roots level.”
Cllr Malcolm Noonan (Greens) said he was “thrilled” to see her elected chairwoman and that he hoped she would “bring that sense of community and a sense of social justice, particularly in relation to marginalised groups.”
Labour’s Cllr Maurice Shortall was named to the post of vice chairman, also unopposed by Fianna Fáil. Commenting that Cllr Fitzpatrick was mayor at the same time he served as council chairman and that they “worked extremely well together” from Ferrybank to Moneenroe, he said: “It will be more of the same and I look forward to working with you.”