Mayor of Kilkenny David Fitzgerald led the tributes to the departing Councillor Betty Manning, who announced her decision to retire from local politics on Monday evening.
Having read her tender of resignation to the members of Kilkenny Borough Council, Mayor Fitzgerald said Ms Manning had been an exemplary public servant.
“Councillor Manning one of the finest mayors the city has ever seen,” he said.
“It is with huge regret that I greet this, as a member of the borough council, as a member of Fine Gael and as mayor of the city. I thank her for her many years of service, and acknowledge her many achievements on behalf of the city. I wish her well in the years ahead, and look forward to working with her in her many voluntary activities.”
Also paying tribute to his former council colleague, Fine Gael Party Whip Cllr Martin Brett, who was elected alongside Cllr Manning in 1999, said she would be sorely missed. He said that in the fullness of time, Cllr Manning would be adjudged to have made a significant contribution to many projects.
“She worked vociferously for the people of Kilkenny,” he said.
“I have no doubt, for example, that Talbot Tower project had have taken a very different line than the line it took.”
Cllr Brett said he was aware of that fact that the Manning family had a lot of things to deal with, and he wished them well.
“It is a sad day for us in Fine Gael and as Whip, I am saddened by this, but I understand why she made the decision. To Councillor Manning, as a friend and colleage, I wish to say a sincere ‘thank you’ for her efforts on behalf of the Fine Gael group,” he said.
Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council Paul Cuddihy said he had known Ms Manning for a long time.
“She was fearless when she pursued something,” he said.
“I don not think this will stop her pursuing the objectives she feels strongly about. I well understand why she made the decision to retire.
“I cannot see Betty Manning slipping quietly off into the sunset in Kilkenny for many a long year.”
Sinn Fein’s Kathleen Funchion said that the former Kilkenny mayor had been a political role model for women.
“I only got to know Betty Manning in the last three years,” she said.
“As someone coming in new, I found her to be extremely helpful in giving advice. We have very few women in politics and I think that Cllr Manning was a good role model for women, and wish that there could be more women like her involved.”
Councillor Joe Reidy spoke on behalf of the Fianna Fail group. He said he was surprised to hear of Ms Manning’s decision.
“Along with the rest of the members, I am quite shocked at this,” he said.
“I think Cllr Manning has worked diligently for the people of Kilkenny. She has been a champion for traders, business people, tourism and youth.”
The Fianna Fail councillor said there would always be disagreements from time to time in the chamber, but that there was a unity of purpose.
“We do as a body try to work together for the good of the city,” he said
“Betty Manning always put Kilkenny first. I have to say she is a personal friend of mine, as was her late husband Tommy, and I am sad to see her go.”
His party colleague John Coonan also said he was saddened by the news.
“Cllr Manning, as soon as she arrived, added a very special dimension to this council,” he said.
“She was a true lady - honest and sincere. She will be a great loss to public life, and I wish her well.
Labour Party Whip Councillor Sean O’hArgain said that he shared the sentiments of the other members.
“We were all aware of her reluctance to stand in the last election,” he said.
“But Cllr Manning’s decision has come as a deep political shock as well as a personal one.
Cllr O’hArgain said he hoped the flaws of local government had not pushed her into her decision.
“I hope her stepping down is not a sign of the frustrations that she regularly experienced in here,” he said.
“I know she was frustrated with the slowness of local politics.”
Green Party Councillor Malcolm Noonan said he had spoken to Ms Manning that evening prior to the meeting.
“I did try to talk her out of it, but she felt she had given it her all,” he said.
“It is her own decision and I hope she finds happiness and peace in what private life she tries to find outside politics. She was an exceptional mayor of the city, and will be remembered as such by the people of Kilkenny - particularly for her work for people with disabilities.”