Councillor David Fitzgerald served an ‘exemplary’ term as Mayor of Kilkenny, his borough council colleagues have said.
City Hall was united in sentiment last Thursday evening, as councillors from every political party lauded the departing mayor. Newly-elected Mayor Sean O’ hArgain led the tributes, presenting Cllr Fitzgerald with a photographic record of his time in office.
“I think you have grown into the job in a way that I hope I will be able to,” he said.
“You have been a fine Mayor of Kilkenny in a long family tradition.”
In his farewell speech, Cllr Fitzgerald eschewed the traditional review of the highlights of his year in office. He thanked the people of Kilkenny, for whom he said it had been an honour and a privilege to serve, and then thanked the people with whom he had worked closely over the last year.
“I would like to thank my fellow councillors,” he said.
“I would specifically like to thank Cathaoirleach Paul Cuddihy. We have danced a duet for the past 12 months, and we have worked very closely together.
“We have worked in harmony together, and the two local authorities have worked in harmony also. Let nobody think that there was any schism; it has been a seamless year.
He paid specific thanks to Town Clerk Brian Tyrrell, presenting him with a photograph of the unprecedented moment last year, when 12 past Mayors of Kilkenny gathered in City Hall. He also spoke of his gratitude to the members of the council executive team.
“You need good counsel to be a good mayor,” he told them.
In what was a busy term in office by anyone’s standards, Cllr Fitzgerald attended myriad school, business, festival and society events, meeting and greeting local people.
“Thank you also to all who invited me to attend any function in the past year, and thank you to all the people I met at those functions,” he said.
There were also a number of particularly significant moments during the year.
He marked the 90th anniversary of the handover of Kilkenny’s James Stephens Military Barracks from the occupying British forces to the new Irish Free State Government.
In December, the inaugural Mayor’s Gala Christmas Concert took place. The event brought together some of the finest local performers and talents to raise much-needed funds to assist the Kilkenny branch of St Vincent de Paul.
The former mayor also attended a landmark memorial service in Kilkenny Castle, to honour Irish soldiers who had fought in conflicts around the world. More recently, he unveiled a new memorial stone on Canal Square to pay tribute to Kilkenny citizens who served abroad.
Cllr Fitzgerald’s term of office was marked by efforts to make local government more open and accessible to the general public. He had his own criticisms of local government processes, such as the Part 8 planning, and said he wished that public consultation could be more effective.
On a number of occasions, the former mayor chaired what he described as ‘Town Hall meetings’, whereby City Hall was turned into an open public forum for all of Kilkenny’s citizens.
The first such meeting was on the long-debated subject of a skatepark for the city, but the most significant was just last month following the purchase of the St Francis Abbey Brewery. Cllr Fitzgerald hosted a meeting in which local people gathered to voice their own opinions and ideas on what should happen the site, as well as wider aspects of the city’s development into the future.