A Fianna Fail county councillor from Headford has become the first woman chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum.
Former county mayor Mary Hoade, who represents the Tuam local electoral area on Galway County Council, was elected to the position on Tuesday at a meeting of the forum at Merlin Park Hospital.
She replaced Clare county councillor Tom McNamara who held the position for the past three years. He announced at the meeting that he would not be seeking re-election - he was unanimously elected cathaoirleach of Clare County Council at its AGM on Friday last.
Cllr Hoade was proposed for the position by Fianna Fail councillor Keith Henry, Sligo County Council’s youngest councillor, and was seconded by former city mayor and Independent councillor for Galway city east Terry O’ Flaherty.
Tony Canavan, the chief officer for the Saolta University Health Care Group which runs the local public hospitals and the executive chairman of the local forum, said he was looking forward to working with the new incumbents - Fianna Fail county councillor for Nenagh John Carroll was elected the vice chairperson of the organisation.
Mr Canavan said the purpose of the forum was to facilitate public accountability and added this was a very important function.
Cllr Hoade outlined that she had held the position of chairperson of the Western Health Board - which was replaced by the HSE in January 2005 - during the period 2002 to 2003 and was particularly interested in the area of health.
She described the outgoing chair Cllr McNamara as a “fair, honest and good chairperson” who represented the board with “great dignity”. She thanked him for the time and energy he had put into the position and congratulated him on being elected cathaoirleach of Clare Co Council.
She stated these were “particularly challenging times” and she would like to see a greater focus on issues, such as home helps and homecare packages, which would relieve the pressure on local hospitals.
Members paid glowing tributes to Cllr Hoade describing her as experienced, innovative and a passionate believer in health.
Cllr Terry O’Flaherty said she was “very dedicated and committed” and predicted she would be a very fair and balanced chairperson who would have the full support of the members of the forum.
She outlined that she had just sent a text to Mary’s husband William Scully and daughter Rachel to tell them the good news. She added it was great to see a female in the position of chair.
Cllr Padraig Conneely thanked the “outgoing chairperson Cllr Tom McNamara for his courtesy to all the forum members and confessed: “I probably was not the easiest person myself!”
He stated he was delighted that Cllr Hoade had been elected chairperson and he recalled that both she and he were first elected to the forum in 2006. “You were patient and your time has come,” he said.
He observed that the councillor had had an “early trip to the hairdressers” that morning and was wearing her “white guna”. He said she had extensive experience and had deputised for him on several occasions when he was chairperson of the forum. “You were always willing, able and obliging,” he added.
In a goodnatured reference to the controversy over Taoiseach Leo Varadker’s male dominated cabinet, the Fine Gael city councillor said: “We can tell Leo that a woman has been elected in Galway”.
He pointed out that the forum had elected a “very competent and capable” woman as its chairperson and there was only one thing he would ask of her: “Could you be a bit liberal with the questions and answers and don’t be too strict on the bell?”