Independent members have been installed as Cathaoirligh in three out of five representative bodies in Clare. Ian Lynch and Gerry Flynn now lead their respective Municipal Districts of West Clare and Shannon, while Michael Begley is the first Clonlara native to hold the title Mayor of Clare.
Celebrating Independents Day in Clare County Council were (l-r) Ian Lynch (Cathaoirleach Killaloe Municipal District), Michael Begley (Mayor of Clare) and Gerry Flynn (Cathaoirleach Shannon Municipal District).
Kilmurry councillor Alan O’Callaghan has been elected Leas Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council while the remaining two positions were filled by Fine Gael councillor Pat Burke (Cathaoirleach of Killaloe Municipal District) and Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy of Fianna Fáil, was elected Mayor of Ennis.
The elections mark the honouring of a partnership arrangement that was agreed by the council’s three political groupings following the 2014 local government elections.
Cllr Michael Begley succeeds outgoing mayor Cllr Tom McNamara. In his farewell address, the Kilmaley man reflected on a year full of wonderful memories. In particular, he recalled being honoured to represent the people of Clare on a visit to the USA where he met many familiar faces.
Cllr McNamara noted that he was especially taken aback with how attuned the Irish diaspora are to events at home and said he was very proud of the positive contribution they are making to their adopted country.
When the outgoing mayor sought nominations for his replacement, only one name was put forward, that of Independent councillor Michael Begley who was nominated by Cllr Gerry Flynn, seconded by Cllr PJ Ryan and deemed unanimously elected by his peers.
Paying tribute to Michael Begley’s contribution to public life, Cllr Flynn said he will be well suited to the position of first citizen of County Clare and Mayor of Clare County Council.
Born in Truagh, Michael and his family moved to his grandparents home near Clonlara following the death of his father when he was just nine years old.
Like many others from a poor background, Michael’s family couldn’t afford a third level education. However, he later succeeded in acquiring qualifications in electronic engineering, quality control and architectural studies.
Michael worked in Shannon for 22 years and Dublin for 4. By 1970 he married Fidelma Coughlan and the couple has three sons, Eoghan, Michael and Feilim.
A pillar of his local community, Michael held several positions with Clonlara GAA Club and was chairman of the club development committee which secured €3 million in funding for a sports and community centre and a childcare centre employing 24 people.
First elected to Clare County Council in 1991, Michael is currently chairman of the council’s twinning committee and a former Cathaoirleach of Killaloe Municipal District.
A recent Boundary Committee review has recommended removingClonlara from the Killaloe Municipal District. Michael Begley has confirmed that he will be defending his seat in the Shannon Municipal District in next year’s local government election.
A proud day for Fianna Fáil councillor Alan O’Callaghan, the Kilmurry man succeeds Cllr Pat Burke as Leas Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council.
A packed public gallery filled with family and friends listened attentively as the new Mayor of Clare thanked his colleagues for the great honour bestowed on him. He acknowledged that all those present in the gallery will take great pride in the fact that he is the first person from Clonlara to become Mayor of Clare.
Cllr Begley becomes the 45th person to hold the title during the Clare County Council’s 119-year history since it was established in 1899. “I am aware that I am in very privileged company,” he said. Fittingly, he also acknowledged his friend and colleague, Colm Wiley, the former Mayor passed away earlier this year.
Mayor Begley said he is looking forward to meeting with communities and individuals across the county and further afield over the next year and said he will do his utmost to represent everyone to the best of his ability.
Something that guided him into political life was a visit to Clare County Council’s offices on behalf of his community. As he met with a council official, the man asked whether he was a county councillor? Michael said ‘no’ and the official replied dismissively, “Well come back to me when you are”. That decided it, and so he went on to contest two elections before being elected to the council in 1991.
He spoke very favourably of CEO Pat Dowling and his team for their openness and the spirit of collaboration they now have with councillors. The new mayor believes the council “is meeting head on the rural, physical, economic and social challenges and opportunities that it faces by being innovative and brave in its ambition.”
As a Gaelgoir, he would like the local authority to work closely with the O’Curry Irish College in Carrigaholt and the community in Loop Head to strengthen the longstanding Gaeltacht in that area that has sadly not been recognised to any great extent by the relevant agencies in recent years.
He commented, “I want to commend the council for its work in supporting and promoting Clare’s rich cultural heritage. I am suggesting that the council examine the prospect of supporting the hosting of events that celebrate some of the lesser known, but equally important, contributors to Clare’s proud cultural tradition.
“There is an opportunity to promote Clare’s hidden voices – people like Kathleen Hayes McGreedy from Miltown Malbay, Fr. James Hartigan whose family came from Lissycasey or Martin Kennedy from Violet Hill, Broadford – whose creative talents over the years have contributed to making Clare the cultural centre that we know today.”
Mayor Begley concluded by stating that being elected Cathaoirleach was his proudest day as an elected member. “I look forward to representing this council, the people of County Clare, my own family and the parish of Clonlara during my term as mayor.”