ON Thursday last, June 4th, Clonakilty – the only town in Ireland to have a directly elected Community Mayor saw the installation of its new Mayor for 2020/2021.
Unlike previous years where the mayoral changeover would take place at Asna Square, a private ceremony took place outdoors at Fernhill House Hotel & Gardens instead due to the restrictions surrounding Covid-19 and the event was live streamed on Facebook. The Irish tricolour, Cork and Clonakilty flags fluttered in the gentle summer breeze as MC Chris Hinchy of the Mayoral Council, welcomed the limited number of people who were in attendance and those who were tuned in to watch the live event.
He thanked the O’Neill family for giving the gardens for the ceremony before calling on the outgoing Mayor of Clonakilty Michael O’Neill to make his final address. In his speech Michael thanked all those who voted for him in the 2019 election, his family for their support and his parents for always being so supportive.
Michael said that, while he was saddened to be at the end of his term as Mayor, he was delighted to be handing the chain of office to a great Clonakilty man like Pádraig O’Reilly. Michael said that Clonakilty was a special place and he was delighted to be the fourth generation of the O’Neill family to hold the office of Mayor of Clonakilty.
Finally, Michael thanked his colleagues on the Mayoral Council as well as those from Dúchas Clonakilty Heritage for keeping the position of Mayor alive. Michael wished both the incoming Mayor and Deputy Mayor the very best for the year ahead.
There was then the formal presentation of the Mayoral robe and chain. Traditionally, the outgoing Mayor would hand over to the incoming Mayor as part of the ceremony but again due to the restrictions around Covid-19, Pádraig’s mother Ann and father John placed the robe on Pádraig before his daughter Leah stepped forward to place the chain of office on him.
In his acceptance speech as new Mayor, Pádraig once again thanked the many people who voted for him in last year’s election and said he was delighted to be elected one the members of the present Mayoral Council. He thanked the O’Neill Family for the use of the facilities in Fernhill House Hotel for the ceremony.
He thanked the members of the Mayoral Council for their great support to him as council secretary over the past 12 months, while also paying tribute to Tomás Tuipéar and Jerome O’Sullivan of Dúchas Clonakilty Heritage for keeping the position of Mayor in the Clonakilty going after the abolition of the statutory Town Council and Town Mayor in 2014.
Pádraig thanked his family for their huge support over the past number of months and, in particular, he paid a very fitting tribute to his young daughter Leah, who he said was ‘the most important person’ in his life.
He said that, just like the whole world, Clonakilty was going through very hard times at the present time, but he said that Clonakilty was a magical place and that he knew that the can-do spirit that is Clonakilty would shine again and that, as a community, ‘we will come together’ and that ‘we will support each other.’ That is what made Clonakilty so great and what kept Clonakilty on the map.
He said he loved Clonakilty from the bottom of his heart and that he was looking forward to representing the people of the town as Mayor for the next 12 months.
The Deputy Mayor Mr Anthony McDermott then stepped forward to accept his chain of office from his wife Julian. Anthony thanked all for their continued support in particular the O’Donovan family of O’Donovan’s Hotel for always supporting the Clonakilty Mayoral Council; the Dúchas Clonakilty Heritage Mayoral Sub-Committee for continuing the role of Town Mayor. He said he was delighted to once again represent the people of Clonakilty on the Mayoral Council and congratulated the new Mayor Pádraig O’ Reilly whom he looked forward to working with for the next year.
The ceremony concluded with everyone facing the national flag as Mr Ger O’Driscoll played ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’ on the trumpet.