By Martin Walsh
BANTRY-based Barry Walsh is set to become well-known throughout the length and breadth of the county for chauffeuring the county’s first citizen – county mayor Patrick Gerard Murphy – in his 181 C 10000 Series 5 BMW.
The call for the county mayor to have a driver finally came to fruition in the final ten weeks of outgoing mayor Cllr Declan Hurley’s tenure.
It is currently being ‘trialled’ for three months. It’s not just because the county’s roads network is a staggering 12,555km, but due to safety aspects and an ever-increasing mayoral workload.
The idea was mooted a few years ago by then-mayor, Cllr John Paul O’Shea. It was prompted by a heavy schedule that saw the North Cork man once officiate at several functions in one day – from Doneraile to Fermoy and down West, before finally launching the Westlodge Hotel Fastnet Rally in Bantry. Hotel management kindly ended John Paul’s epic journey by extending him overnight hospitality.
Subsequently, Cllr Seamus McGrath, also emphasised the need for a driver in the busy post.
Despite many queries to the County Council this week, the press office as unable to confirm the cost of the service (driver plus car) to the taxpayer.
‘I can certainly stand over the call for having a driver,’ the outgoing mayor Hurley said last Friday. ‘Coming from West Cork, there are longer distances to travel and I can see the practicality and necessity. Cork is a vast county to cover. I’m being honest when I say that fatigue was a big part of my year. I tried to attend as many functions as possible but I was still a public representative and daily jobs had to be done. It’s not a luxury and should not be seen as a luxury, it’s a necessity and also a safety issue,’ he told The Southern Star.
The role of the mayor’s driver is a ‘nice challenge’, according to Barry Walsh (58), a native of Murragh. Barry was a member of An Garda Síochána for 32 years, serving in Dublin, Bantry, Durrus and Schull and a year abroad with the United Nations.
His love of motoring – he is a keen motorcyclist and tours Europe on his BMW 1200 – is an extra advantage, as he drives the mayor’s BMW 5 Series. He quipped: ‘I’m sticking with the [BMW] badge.’
It’s also convenient that Barry lives in Bantry, as does the new county mayor, Cllr Murphy.
Cllr Hurley, who clocked up over 40,000km himself in his year, says that
having a driver will give Cllr Murphy the space and time to catch up on briefings, phone calls, emails and other business.
‘The Lord Mayor in the city is driven to an event and he gets out of the car and is fully dressed and chained while I had to try and discreetly park my car somewhere and get out and put on my jacket and my chain and roll up,’ said Cllr Hurley. ‘Both offices are doing the same volume of work, and are the same status, and both offices should be treated the same.’