Cooney contests Neilan vacancy with schoolkids

With only a little over a week to go in his tenure as Mayor of Athlone before Cllr Sheila Buckley-Byrne takes over his seat, the title-hungry ambition of Cllr Mark Cooney knew no shame in Athlone District Court this week (June 23 ) when the local solicitor first made public his desire for the recently vacated position with the judiciary.

Attending as guests in court on Wednesday were 10 members of Ms Deirdre Connolly’s sixth class from Kilcleagh NS in Castledaly who had been brought along by Garda PJ Hoey from Ballinahown as a last-day-of-school treat.

As court was adjourning for lunch, Judge Conal Gibbons turned to address his young and, it must be said, very well-behaved visitors, before welcoming them to the court.

The avuncular judge put the youngsters at their ease and asked if they enjoyed their outing, to which there seemed to be a unanimous affirmative.

Having easily won their confidence, Judge Gibbons pushed on to see if any of the youngsters had been influenced in any of the career directions on show in the court.

“Anybody want to be a solicitor?” asked the judge, but there weren’t too many takers.

When he asked did: “Anybody think about about being a guard after seeing them today?”, one or two tentative hands were slowly raised out of politeness.

Then, perhaps a bit curious to see if his own performance on the bench might have influenced any emulators, Judge Gibbons asked: “Does any of you want to be a judge when you grow up?”

Cooney’s shameless right arm almost hit the ceiling, leaving any career-minded 12-year-old withered in his wake. And poor Judge John not even officially retired yet. Some people.


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