FOR the first time in 32 years, Kilkenny has a senior minister at the Cabinet table. The elevation of Deputy Phil Hogan to the position of Minister of the Environment in the new Fine Gael-Labour coalition government marks the first time that a Fine Gael person from Kilkenny has made it to the highest echelon in Irish politics.
It provides a major boost for Kilkenny and brings with it huge pressures and expectations. Minister Hogan will have to bring in water charges and other unsavoury measures in the coming months but he is acutely aware of what needs to be done and is up for the challenge.
The 51-year-old has already started looking at the lack of infrastructure in Kilkenny city and county. As well as addressing the poor broadband coverage in Kilkenny he is also going to tackle the huge infrastructural deficit in water, sewage and roads locally that has been allowed to build up during Fianna Fail’s time in office.
“We have a huge job to do to catch up with other counties and regions and unless we improve, we will not get any new industries or business here,” he said.
His mother Maura was with him on his big day as was his son Edward and brother paddy, his sister Joan had to work but her husband Eamon Teehan was there along with a large group of supporters from Tullaroan and Kilkenny city.
“It was a special day and I was glad my family and fiends were here with me he said. Again , the day was tinged with sadness as his father, the late Tom Hogan and his late uncle Jim Hogan were not with him.
He was also delighted with the huge crowd that was present in the hall on Tullaroan to greet him when he came back from Dublin with his seal of office. “It was a good feeling and I know I owe a lot to those who went before me and to those who have helped me along the way,” he said.
IT has a momentous two weeks for the man known as Big Phil. On Monday he attended a 14 hour meeting of EU environment ministers in Slovenia where he held one-to-one talks with the EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik and with Madame Connie Hedegaard, head of the EU’s climate change committee. He arrived back in Dublin just before midnight for a briefing and it was back into Government buildings the following morning for another round of meeting starting at 8am.
He has already been in contact with the UIDA and enterprise Ireland about improved promotion for Kilkenny now that it is served so well by the new DublinWaterford motorway.