Sean Counihan, described by his fellow councillors as from “old Killarney stock” and a committed trade unionist, was unanimously elected mayor of his home town.
He was proposed for office by Cllr Michael Gleeson, a former Labour member who also left the party in the 1990s after a bitter row with the Moynihan faction of the Labour.
Mr Counihan was seconded by colleague Sean O’Grady.
In his inaugural speech, Mr Counihan said he would not sully the occasion of his election as mayor but it would be remiss of him “not to say something” — a reference to the bitter division that has surrounding the selection of Breeda Moynihan Cronin to fill Senator Marie Moloney’s county council seat.
“Maybe my father was right. Maybe I was in the wrong party,” Mr Counihan said, explaining he had joined the labour party as a young man, thinking it represented working class people, when his late father had wanted him to join Fine Gael.
“But I am proud nonetheless to be the first Labour party mayor of Killarney.”
In proposing him, Mr Gleeson said there were challenging times for local government with a move to make councils redundant and it was important that “this dynamic council should have a person of deep commitment to the town and to local government”.
Tributes were paid to outgoing mayor Donal Grady who had been an able ambassador for Killarney.
The occasion was attended by Mr Counihan’s wife Mary, his daughter Denise and her husband Aidan Moynihan and their children Leah, 10, and Rachel, eight.