First day at school for new councillors

‘Roll call’ is the first item on the agenda as the class of 2014 convene for their first official council meeting since being elected two weeks ago.

Westmeath County Council’s AGM, which takes place this afternoon, Friday, is the first time the county’s 20 newly elected representatives will gather in one room.

And as with the first day of a new school term, all the talk in the run-up is of who will sit beside whom, who will be friends with whom, and who will emerge as class president.

Seven brand new councillors are among the 20 to take their seats today, while 13 are returning for another term. Ten of the old guard will not be returning.

With such a shake-up in the party spread on the new council, it will be all eyes on the council chamber in Mullingar from 2.30pm today to see which parties or groupings show signs of forming an alliance. Fianna Fáil has eight seats on the new council, Fine Gael has five, Sinn Féin three, and Labour and Independents each have two seats.

Political insiders are not ruling out an unprecedented FF-FG coalition.

A Fianna Fáil cathaoirleach is likely, with Athlone’s Frankie Keena and Castletown-Finea’s Paddy Hill being hotly tipped for the title, though the leas-cathaoirleach role is anybody’s guess.

Members will also be appointed today to various committees and boards, while the timetable will also be fixed for county council and municipal district meetings.

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