With the election of Patrick Gerard Murphy, who has been a wheelchair user since 1993, a new spotlight will now be put on disability issues throughout the county
IT was standing room only for the Beara and Bantry contingent that gathered in the Council chamber last Friday.
They were there to offer their support and congratulations to Fianna Fáil councillor Patrick Gerard Murphy who was elected the new county mayor, taking over from his fellow West Cork neighbour Cllr Declan Hurley.
The Beara native, who now lives in Ballylickey and works with the National Learning Network in Bantry, said it was a huge honour for him to take up the position.
He said he would be taking a leave of absence for work for the year so he could devote his time to the role and he will have the use of a driver and a car to allow him travel to functions across the county.
His colleague, Cllr Seamus McGrat, nominated him and said that Patrick Gerard has the skillset necessary for the demands of such a role.
‘I have known him since 2008 and he is a very loyal and trusted colleague and he has a well-balanced and incisive mind. We must acknowledge that he is a wheelchair user and his election sends out a powerful message that we are an organisation that embraces people and that there are no limits in this society,’ said Cllr McGrath.
Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) seconded his nomination and said that Cllr Murphy will be well able for the challenges that lie ahead.
Cllr Des O’Grady (SF) said his party was not going to make a nomination, and while they didn’t support Cllr Murphy’s nomination they were not going to oppose it either.
Taking to the top table following his election, the newly-elected county mayor said he is absolutely under no illusions about the huge challenges the local authority is facing.
‘There are huge challenges ahead and the boundary extension is not finished yet, it’s just starting and the real hard work starts now. The decision has been foisted upon us reluctantly and we had to accept and it was something I was staunchly opposed to and spoke quite often and quite regularly about it in this chamber,’ said Cllr Murphy.
He also said that the National Planning Framework on the face of it is looking to be very dangerous for rural Ireland and for Cork county.
‘The potential growth within that being afforded to us is quite limited and it will stifle our development growth for many years to come and we need to keep a close eye on that.’
Other issues he highlighted included the issue of roads, which he said is underfunded, and he also called for more a concerted effort in developing the towns and villages in the county.
Cllr Murphy, who has been in a wheelchair since 1993 following a car accident and has been working in that area for several years, said he certainly will be bringing his own slant to the whole area of disability.
‘It’s important that our regional towns and villages are as mobility friendly as possible and I will be trying to set a lead on that if I can and try to put a spotlight on that for positive change,’ he said.
Youghal-based Independent councillor Mary Linehan Foley became the first female Deputy Mayor after she was nominated by Cllr Kevin Conway at the same meeting.
Meanwhile, the former county mayor Cllr Declan Hurley said he will be going back to his farm.
‘Now I’m going back to being a dairy farmer, milking cows on a more regular basis. We have local elections next year and hopefully, my year as mayor will resonate in people’s minds when it comes to making that crucial decision on the day in the ballot box,’ said Cllr Hurley.
The highlight of the year for him was ‘being a tourist within my own county.’
‘I’m leaving the post of mayor with a much higher appreciation of what Cork is all about. It’s the people that make Cork, they are the unsung heroes and give Cork the character it is known for and my year was to showcase those people.’
In contrast, the low point he said was the boundary extension, which he said consumed the first six months of his year.