A piece of local political history was created within the surrounds of the civic centre on Monday afternoon as Louise Heavin became the first Green Party councillor to be elected Mayor of Athlone-Moate Municipal District.
Serving her inaugural five year term as an elected representative, Cllr Heavin was proposed for the role by Cllr Aengus O’Rourke, who described the new Mayor as a councillor with a “strong voice who is certain to be undaunted by the role”. Cllr O’Rourke’s proposal was seconded by Cllr Liam McDaniel and with no additional candidate proposed for the role, Cllr Heavin accepted the chain of office from outgoing Mayor, Cllr Vinny McCormack.
Addressing the council chamber following her first citizen election, Cllr Heavin expressed her honour at being chosen by her fellow councillors to serve the role of Mayor during her first term as an elected representative for the Athlone-Moate Municipal District. The Green Party councillor also afforded much gratitude to her family members and friends, many of whom had gathered in the council chamber to witness such an auspicious occasion.
“Some of my family and friends are here with me today. This day is for them too as they have been my main supporters over the past few years. I couldn’t have imagined when I put myself forward as the Green Party candidate some five years ago that I would now be sitting here as Mayor. I’m incredibly honoured,” Cllr Heavin stated.
The Mayor noted that the Athlone-Moate Municipal District had shaped her as a person from her childhood days to her current status as elected representative.
“The District has greatly shaped me as a person, growing up in my Mount Temple home, going to secondary school in Moate and spending each weekend in my father’s shop in Golden Island. I saw Athlone town grow and develop in a big way over those years and it sparked my interest in construction and the built environment, in fact there was a sketch of this very building in the portfolio for my architecture school. It’s quite poetic really,” Cllr Heavin added.
Looking towards the future and her year as first citizen, Cllr Heavin echoed positive tones pertaining to the development of Athlone and the wider District.
“In this coming year we will see the finalisation and adoption of the joint urban area plan for Athlone, a big and important piece of work that will shape the direction of development for the town. It was while in architecture school in Dundee that I learned about sustainable development, the carbon impact of building, so it’s important that we build once and build right and if we get it wrong, we don’t demolish and start again, we creatively adapt and reuse.
“I was at the opening of Mount Temple Hall recently, a fine example of building adaptation and reuse, but it takes hard work of volunteers, imagination and support from the council for such projects to be realised. I hope to support other projects like this over the coming year, such as the town and village project in Moate, the Croi Conaithe scheme to bring derelict buildings back to life in towns such as Kilbeggan, support the work on the regeneration of Connaught Street, the community group that are energised to see real change which celebrates the historic urban environment of Athlone.
“Towns originally developed as places for people in which to live, work and shop. We are learning more about sustainability, climate change and placemaking and over the next year I hope to see this further embedded in the town. I hope to see more town centre adjacent housing, helping alleviate the chronic housing shortage we are experiencing.
“Athlone is the perfect size for cycling around, there are signs that people are catching on to this and as we improve the cycling infrastructure, I hope we see more and more people, ‘take to the rothar’. We also need to work on our street enhancement, realising the great plans drawn up for Sean Costello Street and the Castle and making new ones for Market Square, Connaught Street and Wandsboro Park,” the Mayor continued.
Concluding her address, the Mayor afforded further appreciation to those who have supported her in her local political career to date.
“I wish to express my gratitude further, particularly to my fellow councillors and the the council executive that has supported the ideas. You have been quick to pick up the phone or return a call when I’ve been looking for advice and guidance. It’s not easy being a minority both in terms of my gender and sometimes my political viewpoint. Having different perspectives is important in politics, where we discuss different views and come to agreements and I appreciate the respect and courtesy I have been shown.
“We do need a more balanced table. We are coming into an election year. It’s time for us all to reach out to the community groups we’re involved in and say to other strong community leaders, would you consider running for election? Women have to be asked to run for election. I was asked three times before I decided to put my name on the ballot paper and now I’m privileged to be sitting here before you as Mayor.
“I want to thank the people that have got me there, my mother Rosaleen, my husband Ed, my campaign manager Meabh, my siblings and friends. I would also like to thank you in advance for your support and advice over the coming year,” the Mayor concluded.