History is being made with the retirement of the last county engineer in the country — or as he put it himself, “The last of the Mohicans” .
Many tributes have been paid to Noel O’Keeffe, who retires after being county engineer in Cork County Council for the past five years, during which time he oversaw the completion of €500m in projects.
Local authorities have replaced county engineers with directors of services. The last city engineer remains in Dublin.
Cork county manager Martin Riordan described Mr O’Keeffe as a right-hand man who he “often turned to when in difficulty”.
“You couldn’t list out all he did. He’s a can-do man. I haven’t come across as good an engineer in any county I’ve worked in. Over a very short space of time he delivered an awful lot.”
Mr O’Keeffe headed several substantial projects, highlights which he said included the completion eight months ahead of schedule of the €75m Fermoy-Mitchelstown section of the M8, the €15m Cobh anti-landslide project, and main drainage works in Kinsale and Skibbereen which overall cost a combined €60m.
He also oversaw the rebuilding of the Mizen Head bridge which won several national and international awards.
Cork city born, he graduated with a civil engineering degree from University College Cork in 1971.
Mr O’Keeffe first worked in the private sector in Britain where he was employed by Philips Petroleum and ICI, before returning home in 1993 when he took up a job at Galway Institute of Technology.
Between 1998–2001, he worked on Cork City’s main drainage project and then joined the county council as an executive engineer.
He was appointed county engineer in 2007.
“I’ve enjoyed working as county engineer immensely. I made a huge amount of friends and I got on well with all the councillors,” the married father of four grown-up children said.
Many other tributes have been paid to Mr O’Keeffe, who lives in Carrigtwohill and who is known for his wit and self-deprecating humour. His “Last of the Mohicans” comment poked fun at himself, he admitted, for the lack of hair on his head.
Cllr Derry Canty (FG) said in 2009, when he was mayor of the county during a major flood, he saw Mr O’Keeffe work around the clock “tirelessly and diligently”.
Cllr Michael Hegarty (FG) said: “He drove rural water programmes and leaves a fine record after him.”
Cllr Andrias Moynihan (FF) described Mr O’Keeffe as “energetic and determined” and “a no nonsense guy” who just got on with the job.
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