The 24 members of Kilkenny County Council, elected on May 24, held their first meeting at County Hall on Friday, where they discussed some of their aspirations for the next five years.
The party whips all spoke, paying tribute to former members of the borough and county councils – both those who had retired and those who were not returned. Outgoing cathaoirleach Pat Dunphy said he had been honoured to serve the city and county in the past year, and thanked the other members, the council staff, and his family for their support.
“To all the new members, I say congratulations,” he said.
“The real hard work starts now.”
Fine Gael councillor Mary Hilda Cavanagh noted she was the only ‘survivor’ on the council since the 1974 local elections. She expressed concern over the number of women returned.
“There are only five of us and we started off with eight the last time,” she said.
The business of the meeting saw a new cathaoirleach and leas-cathaoirleach elected, as well as appointments to a number of external bodies.
The new councillors will have something of a baptism of fire, with some significant decisions to be made in the immediate future. Outoing chief executive Joe Crockett said it was important to have a meeting regarding the masterplan for the St Francis Abbey site (see last week’s Kilkenny People) within the coming weeks.
After lengthy debate, the councillors managed to agree on a meeting for the morning of June 23, with the regular council meeting taking place that afternoon also. Several members will need to be briefed on the relevant issues ahead of that date.
On the issue of the Central Access Scheme, the new cathaoirleach Pat Millea said Fianna Fail councillors had met council officials and the chief executive in recent days and had reviewed all decisions taken to date.
“This review has shown clearly, in our view, that there is no going back on the decisions of Kilkenny County Council and Kilkenny Borough Council,” he said.
Fine Gael’s Mary Hilda Cavanagh said her party supported ‘the need for a new scheme to replace Greens Bridge’.
The three Sinn Fein councillors, independent councillor Breda Gardner, and Green Party councillor Malcolm Noonan have called for a full review of the project in light of the new members elected.
“With so many new councillors elected, I believe we all need time to thoroughly review all the facts, options and alternatives around the CAS,” said Cllr Gardner.
“This decision is absolutely crucial to Kilkenny’s future, and is not one that should be rushed through.”