There was genuine warmth in the way councillors congratulated the new Mayor of Co Cork, knowing he was at rock bottom four years ago.
Declan Hurley (Ind) nearly lost his 60-acre dairy farm during the fodder crisis of 2013 when he couldn’t afford to buy in feed for his cows.
He spoke publicly about his anguish at the time.
He said he had a very tough time when the crisis struck and, like many small farmers, didn’t get the help needed from the government and financial institutions.
He said that, fortunately, his dairy business is now “recovering slowly, but surely” and then joked: “By the way can you mention that I’m single and available?”
The Dunmanway man was elected mayor through a pact between the Independents and Fianna Fáil. He defeated Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) by 26-8 votes. Fifteen Fine Gael members abstained from the vote.
“I’m absolutely privileged and honoured at being elected mayor. I was first elected to the council in 2009 and this is way beyond my expectations,” said Mr Hurley.
On a more serious note, he laid down a marker to those who want to see a vastly expanded city boundary.
Mr Hurley said he wouldn’t allow this to be to the detriment of his beloved West Cork and rural areas of the county in general.
“This proposed pillaging (of county council rates) is making me even more determined than ever to protect rural communities,” said Mr Hurley who is chairman of the Dunmanway Family Resource Centre and works closely with the charity Co-Action.
Outgoing mayor Seamus McGrath (FF) said his term in office had been an eventful and exciting one, outlining the number of events he was involved in, both at home and abroad.
He said there is a need to increase the profile of the county mayor and suggested to council chief executive Tim Lucey that newly elected mayors be given full-time drivers. “This is a huge county to get around and there is a serious health and safety issue there,” he said.
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) pointed out that the Lord Mayor of Cork has a full-time driver “and you can cycle to most parts of the city in 10 minutes”.
Cllr Ian Doyle (FF), from Charleville, was elected deputy mayor of the county without a vote.
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