IT was complicated and caused an adjournment but in the end the election process saw Cllr Danny Owens emerge as the new Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council.
Cllr Dervill Dolan was the first to nominate a candidate, fellow Independent Johnny Butterfield. He said there had not been an independent chairman for the past number of years, since he himself held the chair in 2004/2005 and described Cllr Butterfield who was first elected to Offaly County Council in 1967 as a “long standing member.”
In seconding his nomination Cllr John Carroll said Cllr Butterfield had given “huge service to the community.
Cllr Danny Owens was proposed by Cllr Peter Ormond and seconded by Cllr Sinead Dooley.
Meanwhile Cllr Tommy McKeigue was proposed by Cllr Connie Hanniffy. She said Cllr McKeigue who was first elected to the council in 1991 had a welcome amount of experience at local and national level.
This was seconded by Cllr Molly Buckley who said his work was “exemplary”.
The first candidate Johnny Butterfield was voted for by Cllrs Dervill Dolan, John Carroll, himself, John Foley and John Leahy while all other councillors voted against him.
Meanwhile Cllr Owens was voted for by Cllrs Noel Bourke, Eamon Dooley, Sinead Dooley, Eddie Fitzpatrick, Tony McLoughlin, Sinead Moylan Ryan, Peter Ormond, himself, Ger Plunkett and Paddy Rowland, with the eleven other councillors voting against him.
Cllr Sinead Dooley asked should the roll not be called and each councillor vote for the candidate they wanted.
Cllr Peter Ormond said they had never done three votes for a cathaoirleach before and that they had always voted for the person they wanted in the past. “Everyone proposed will be defeated,” said Cllr Ger Plunkett.
Monica Cleary from Offaly County Council said if there were more than two candidates, the person with the least number of votes would be excluded. It was then decided to adjourn for five minutes to look again at the Local Government Act. In returning to the meeting Ms Cleary said that she had examined the Local Government Act in more detail and that she would be setting aside the previous two roll calls and members would now have to vote for one of the members or abstain.
On this occasion, Cllr Butterfield received five votes, Cllr Owens, ten and Cllr McKeigue, six. At this stage as no one had a clear majority Cllr Butterfield was eliminated. On the next roll call Cllr Owens received twelve votes, Cllr Mc Keigue six votes and Cllrs Butterfield, Carroll and Dolan abstained from voting.
In being elected Cathaoirleach Cllr Owens commiserated with the other two candidates and said he would endeavour to at all times act in the chair in a totally impartial way to all parties involved until June, when the AGM will see the position up for grabs again.
Cllr McKeigue said he was looking forward to working with Cllr Owens over the next three months.
Cllr Butterfield described Cllr Owens as “a gentleman” and a fellow parishioner who would fulfil his role with distinction. Cllr Sinead Dooley said it was good to see democracy “playing out in this forum”.
Cllr John Foley said he had no doubt that Cllr Owens would carry out the role well while Cllr Connie Hanniffy said she was sure Cllr Owens would be “straight and honourable” in the chair.
Cllr John Leahy said it was a great day for the parish of Killoughey and said he hoped this could lead to a hurling title. Meanwhile Cllr Ger Plunkett said it was a great honour for Cllr Owen’s wife Eileen and kids and described him as “a decent guy and an affible fella.”
“I know you’ll be fair to all of us,” said Cllr Molly Buckley. Cllr Eamon Dooley said it took nearly as long to get Cllr Owens in the chair than to get Killoughey in a final.
Cllr Percy Clendennen said he knew that the new chairman would be “impartial”, while Cllr Rowland in his congratulations commented that both men were elected to councils in 2004. Cllr Dolan wished him well in the next few months while Cllr Carroll said he knew he would be fair. County Manager Pat Gallagher assured Cllr Owens of the full support of both him and his staff in discharging his duties during his term of office.