New Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council Eamon Aylward with family at his election to the position on Friday. Picture: Pat Moore
The delivery of housing, the development of the Abbey Quarter, and rural issues will be among the key areas of focus for the new Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council, Eamon Aylward, who was elected unopposed on Friday.
The Fianna Fail councillor was proposed by his party colleague and fellow south Kilkenny man Ger Frisby, who is also his cousin. Cllr Frisby described the long relationship the Aylward family has with Kilkenny County Council; Eamon’s father, Eddie, worked for the council for 47 years.
His uncle Liam served on the council before his time in the Dáil and then the European Parliament, while other uncle Bobby was a councillor for 15 years before going on to the Dáil.
Cllr Aylward’s wife Lorraine, his sons Darragh, Shane and Eoin, as well as other family, friends and supporters were present in the council chamber on Friday to see him take the chain of office.
Addressing the meeting, he outlined a number of areas where he said he would like to focus particular attention in the months ahead, including the issue of housing.
“The housing department has many projects in the pipeline to deliver housing units to tackle this problem. I want to see these progressed as quickly as possible so homes can be provided for those that most need them,” he said.
“The council will not solve this problem on its own, and it’s important to have private housing schemes coming to the market also, and planned developments in the western environs wil help with this.
“Housing availability is now a major consideration for multinational companies when they are considering their options for setting up new operations, and we must ensure Kilkenny is in position to meet those needs.”
Cllr Aylward mentioned the Abbey Quarter, which he described as ‘central’ to the economic, educational, social, and creative development of the city and county.
“In my opinion, a campus for the long-awaited south-east university in the Abbey Quarter is vital,” he said.
He said it was important to ensure tourists spend more time in Kilkenny, and projects such as the new Butler Gallery and proposed Kilkenny Greenway would help with this. He also singled out the Tower Junction on the N24 for special mention.
“Priority must be given to the development of a flyover at the Tower Junction on the Piltown Bypass,” he said.
“This is the only safe solution for this extremely dangerous road, and must be progressed rapidly, and I will be pushing this continuously.”
The south Kilkenny councillor also said the south-east had suffered from a lack of investment, and this had to change.
In proposing Cllr Aylward, Cllr Frisby said he was an active member of the community, had served on various committees in his nine years as a councillor, and had chaired the Piltown Municipal District in 2014.
The proposal was formally seconded by Cllr Pat Dunphy (Fine Gael), who wished him and his family all the best. There were no other proposals, and so Cllr Aylward was elected.
Cllr Mary Hilda Cavanagh (FG) was among the first to congratulate him.
“We will give you our utmost respect and cooperation,” she added.
Cllr Malcolm Noonan (Green Party) said the Aylward name was synonymous with local politics, and he was looking forward to working with the new cathaoirleach: “Today is your day, enjoy it — it’s going to be a busy year,” he said.
Cllr David Kennedy (SF) congratulated Cllr Aylward on his election, and said his group had decided not to propose their own candidate as the Fianna Fail-Fine Gael voting pact was ‘so big and successful’. Cllr Breda Gardner (Ind) added her congratulations, and said she had always found Cllr Aylward kind and respectful.
“I feel your role will come easy to you,” she said.
Chief executive Colette Byrne wished Cllr Aylward well and said the executive looked forward to working in partnership with him.