IT was an AGM with a difference at Tullamore Town Council as the election of Chairperson for 2011 came down to names in a hat.
And just like her husband Johnny famously done for Offaly hurlers on many occasions during his illustrious career, Cllr Sinead Dooley secured a dramatic against the odds victory.
The absence of Cllr Lar Byrne left the council evenly divided over who should become the new Cathaoirleach.
Sinn Fein councillor and outgoing Leas Cathaoirleach Brendan Killeavy was proposed for the role by Cllr Sean O’Brien, with Fianna Fail’s Cllr Sinead Dooley being proposed by Cllr Paddy Rowland.
“He is a new councillor and has settled in very well. He got to know the workings of the council and is a very hard working councillor,” said Cllr O’Brien.
Seconding the proposal, Cllr Tommy McKeigue said Cllr Killeavy was a young councillor who ‘had plenty of energy’.
“Cllr Dooley would make an outstanding Chair,” quipped Cllr Rowland. He said through her day job working for a former Taoiseach she understood local and national government and the interaction between them.
“Her experience alone would greatly improve the council,” said Cllr Declan Harvey seconding her proposal.
A vote was taken with Cllrs Molly Buckley, McKeigue, O’Brien and Killeavy pledging their support for Cllr Killeavy while Cllrs Rowland, Harvey, Dooley and Tony McCormack backed Cllr Dooley.
So with a hung jury the task fell to Town Clerk Ruth McNally to put the names in a hat, or rather a brown cardboard box.
The move proved a success for Cllr Dooley who was elected the first Fianna Fail Tullamore Town Council Chairperson since 1987.
The same process had to be undergone for the position of Leas Cathaoirleach with Cllr McKeigue proposing Cllr Killeavy while Cllr Rowland proposed Cllr Harvey.
Again the gods smiled on Fianna Fail and Cllr Harvey’s name was selected from the box.
“It is a terrific honour. I never thought this would happen in my term,” said Cllr Dooley who added that she appreciated the fact the elected Fianna Fail members put their trust in her to represent the party as Cathaoirleach.
Speaking of Cllr Killeavy she said while none of them has ever envisaged this scenario, they were all elected by the people of Tullamore to do the same job.
She said while she was disappointed for Cllr Killeavy and his family, he was a young man and she was sure his ‘colleagues would row in behind him again’.
Cllr Dooley said an exciting 12 months lay ahead with a number of projects coming to fruition in Tullamore.
Cllr Killeavy, gracious in defeat, wished her the best describing Cllr Dooley as ‘a hard working councillor’.
Director of Services Declan Kirrane congratulated Cllrs Dooley and Harvey on their elections and said it was only the second time in his career that he had seen lots drawn for the position of Cathaoirleach. He commiserated with Cllr Killeavy.
He said it would be a “challenging but excting year” with five or six new projects coming on stream such as the opening of the new Colaiste Choilm, the renovation of the Heritage Centre, and progress on the town’s new Arts Centre.
Meanwhile he paid tribute to outgoing Cathoirleach Cllr Molly Buckley. He said she represented the council with dignity.
Cllr Buckley said it had been a good year in spite of financial constraints. She said a number of occasions stood out in her mind. The first were celebrations to celebrate 150 years of the town council.
She also spoke of the work of the Tidy Towns and Tullamore Credit Union whose work got the town up to rating of clean to European standards.
Also she commended the work of the Joint Policing Committee, which helped make the town a safer place.
Cllr Buckley also spoke of the volunteer recognition evening which was held at the council. She said there were 120 voluntary organisations and without them the town wouldn’t be as good a place to live.
She appealed to landlords to consider reducing rents an asked for 10 minutes free parking in the town centre to encourage shoppers.
She said the LUTS must be implemented and said she looked forward to Eamon Digan’s shopping development in the centre of town.
Cllr Buckley also said that the redevelopment of the canal quarter would encourage tourism in the town.
She said there were a number of anniversaries which were celebrated in the town including Junior Chamber Ireland’s 40th, Comhaltas’s 60th and O’Molloy Street’s 75th.
“She represented the council well and was always available,” said Cllr McKeigue of the outgoing Cathaoirleach.
“She was always very impartial in the chair and politics was left outside the door,” said Cllr Dooley.
“Fair play to you, you did a great job,” said Cllr Harvey.