The conditions of the long-standing Fine Gael-Labour mayoral voting pact were altered at last week’s annual borough council meeting, with the election of Fianna Fail Councillor John Coonan as deputy mayor.
While it was expected that a candidate from either Labour or Fine Gael would be proposed, Cllr Coonan was the only candidate put forward – proposed by Fine Gael Cllr Paul Cuddihy. Negotiations had been ongoing between several of the councillors right up until the time of the meeting.
Meanwhile, also in a departure from the norm, the Fianna Fail group did not put forward an opposition candidate to contest Cllr O’ hArgain’s election as mayor.
“I think we are facing many challenges as a council,” said Cllr Joe Reidy (FF).
“We need to send out a message that we are unified. We will leave no stone unturned in our effort, and we will work together.”
As newly-elected Mayor O’ hArgain asked for candidates for the deputy mayor position, Paul Cuddihy proposed Cllr Coonan, who has been a member of the council for 18 years.
“Tonight, we are breaking with traditions,” said Cllr Cuddihy.
“We have been a divided house here for too long. That is why we are reaching out tonight.”
The Cathaoirleach said that John Coonan had served the people of Kilkenny as well as anyone else.
“I believe that John Coonan will offer you great support as deputy mayor,” he told Mayor O’ hArgain.
“I think that this is a chance for all parties here to work together. With the upcoming reform of local government, we have an opportunity now to do the job more effectively and efficiently.”
His proposal was seconded by Marie Fitzpatrick.
Deputy Mayor John Coonan said he was delighted with the turn of events.
“This is a historic night,” he said.
“It is something that I hoped over long years that I would live to see. I have always said that this is the way we should work, and this is the way we should continue.”
Cllr Malcolm Noonan said it was fitting to acknowledge such a long-standing member of local government.
“This is an historic night in City Hall,” he said.
“It has been remiss that it has taken us so long. I am delighted to have been involved with the negotiations over the last few days to bring this about.”