As he enters his 50th year in local politics, it was fitting that the role of cathaoirleach for the coming year should go to Westmeath’s longest serving councillor, Fine Gael’s Frank McDermott.
It is the second time Cllr McDermott will have the honour of being the county’s first citizen, having previously held the position in 2004.
He was nominated by his party colleague Cllr John Dolan at Westmeath County Council’s AGM on Monday, and seconded by Cllr Ken Glynn (FF ). Sinn Féin’s Cllr Sorca Clarke was also proposed for the role by Cllr Paul Hogan, but Cllr McDermott took the seat by a majority vote of 13 to three.
Accepting the chain of office, Cllr McDermott welcomed a number of distinguished guests who were in attendance, namely Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal Damien English, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Paul Daly, and Deputy Peter Burke.
He went on to reminisce on his almost 50 years in the chamber since he was first elected in 1967, saying it was “kind of an accident” that he first got involved in politics.
After his father passed away, the 25-year-old Frank was dispatched to a Fine Gael meeting in Castlepollard in April 1967 to thank Deputy Gerry L’Estrange for helping his mother to access the Widows Pension payment.
“It appears I made such a good job of thanking the deputy that I came away as a candidate in the election, and the rest is history,” he said.
Recalling his first council meeting in July 1967, he added: “Of the 23 councillors, there are three still in the land of the living; 20 have gone to the higher constituency where quotas don’t matter.”
Cllr McDermott said he was “absolutely delighted” to be elected cathaoirleach, and was looking forward to “a constructive and exciting year representing the people of Westmeath”.
In a double coup for north Westmeath, Fianna Fáil’s Cllr Paddy Hill was elected leas cathaoirleach for the coming year.