Niamh Kiernan from Rathowen became the newest member of Westmeath County Council this week when she was co-opted in place of the recently elevated Robert Troy.
Kiernan (24 ) was nominated by Cllr Paddy Hill and seconded by Cllr Ken Glynn at the March monthly meeting of the county council, in line with the Local Government Act of 2001 which stopped an individual from holding more than one elected position.
“She is a very good community worker and has a very good business brain,” said Cllr Hill.
Kiernan is the owner of Waddlers and Toddlers, a playschool and childcare facility in her home village. The former Loreto girl has been a member of Fianna Fáil since she was 14, and has served Fianna Fáil as the chair of the Rathowen cumman for the past three years and as the youth and recruitment officer for the Mullingar West Comhairle Ceantar. Her appointment bucks the national trend which did not elect one single female from her party to the Dáil.
She was welcomed to the council by the father of the chamber, or “grandfather” , as he said himself - Cllr Frank McDermott, who pointed out that when he was first elected in 1967: “you weren’t even a gleam in someone’s eye!”
Cathaoirleach Mick Dollard also offered his warmest welcomes and pointed out that previous co-optees had even gone on to further office, like Willie Penrose, who was given his first chance on the council back in 1984 on the death of Jimmy Bennett.
Cllr Kiernan is the first co-optee to Westmeath County Council since Ger Corcoran in 2006, and the fifth altogether along with Johnnie Penrose, Ken Glynn, and Paul Daly. All the other four have since stood successfully for election at least once.
Towards the end of the meeting, when Cllr Kiernan was being appointed to her first strategic policy committee, the cathaoirleach warned her with some tongue in cheek to be careful as this was “a baptism of fire” - as she took her place in that known bearpit, the housing, arts and culture committee.