Johnny Penrose becomes new Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council
Cllr Mark Cooney handing over the chain of office to the new Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council Johnny Penrose.
By Claire O’brien
Labour Councillor Johnny Penrose is the new Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council, and he’s delighted with his role.
Proposed by Cllr Detty Cornally and seconded by Cllr Peter Keaney, there were positive comments for Cllr Penrose about his work to date on the council.
They spoke of the Ballynacargey man’s helpfulness, and described him as a great public servant to his home town and to the council.
Cllr Paddy Hill indicated that Fianna Fáil would not be putting forward a candidate because Fine Gael and Labour seemed to have the “jobs for the boys” sewn-up.
But he wished Cllr Penrose the best in what he said will be an onerous year ahead for local government.
Cllr Penrose thanked all who supported him and who had agreed to postpone the AGM and his election for a month while he underwent surgery.
He said he was especially proud to accept the honour of being the first person from his village to be made cathaoirleach.
His brother Deputy Willie Penrose was on the council for close to two decades, but did not have the opportunity to take on the role.
He later responded to Cllr Hill’s comments by saying Fine Gael and Labour had been in the wilderness and on the back benches while Fianna Fáil reigned.
In the chamber, he acknowledged the many challenges facing the local authority in the coming years.
He said his focus will be on “the essentials plus quality customer service”.
He would be seeking the cooperation of all members in reviewing the County Development Plan, he said, and has hopes for inward investment to Westmeath in the coming 12 months.
He hopes to see broadband available in all areas because businesses, particularly in rural areas are restricted in their capacity to develop without it.
He said he will strive to achieve consensus in the council and his door will be open to any elected member.
There were also congratulations and thanks from all sides for outgoing cathaoirleach, Mark Cooney.
Cllr Penrose described Cllr Cooney as “a fantastic fair and impartial chair”.
Outgoing leas-cathaoirleach Ger Corcoran had high praise for Cllr Cooney, and said he appreciated the opportunities he’d been given to learn the ropes.
Cllr Frank McDermott was elected new leas-cathaoirleach.
Proposed by Cllr Joe Flanagan and seconded by Cllr Fintan Cooney, he was described as “the father of the house”, having been elected for the first time in 1967.
He used the opportunity to wish Cllr Penrose well and to recall by name the 22 councillors who were elected with him 44 years ago.