John Walsh resigns after 28 years as town clerk

Praise for Mayo man who “took Athlone to his heart”

There was shock and praise in equal measures at the end of Monday’s meeting of Athlone Town Council when town clerk John Walsh announced he had presided over his final council meeting.

While it was public knowledge that his retirement was in the pipeline, councillors were shocked to learn that Mr Walsh had tendered his resignation, and that, in his own words, “I will not be here when you return in September”.

Mr Walsh, who hails from Mayo, had served as town clerk in Athlone for the majority of his career, some 28 years.

A clearly emotional Mr Walsh told councillors he had enjoyed his close working relationship with them. He said he had been privileged to work in Athlone “during a period of unprecedented expansion in both the public and private sectors”, and had enjoyed a central role in all the council’s major projects including the regeneration of Battery Heights, the Castle visitor centre, Regional Sports Centre, Civic Centre, Marina, art gallery, Arcadia School, the Towncentre and Golden Island developments, and the town boundary extension.

Mr Walsh also served as a director of the Regional Sports Centre and Athlone e-Com, chaired the Voluntary Council Committee which organised Summer Fest this year and the Festival of Europe for the past 20 years, and was a member of the twinning committee.

He thanked county manager Dan McLoughlin for his “progressive style of management”, director of services Barry Kehoe, and Trisha Mulvaney and Anne McNamara, and also his wife Anne and family.

Fellow Mayo man Cllr Alan Shaw, who had just received his mayoral chain, said it was with great sadness that he received the news of Mr Walsh’s retirement.

“I have mixed emotions now following my election as mayor. I am deeply saddened by this news and I wish John the best in his retirement.”

Having been a councillor for 24 of Mr Walsh’s 28 years as town clerk, Cllr Kieran Molloy said he would be missed as a friend more than anything, and for his constant advice.

Cllr Mark Cooney commented that “no one expected this bombshell tonight”, and that Mr Walsh’s influence on Athlone had been huge.

“When John arrived we had a shopping centre which was a just cluster of shops - look at the amenities we have now. Athlone has surpassed every town in the Midlands, and this has derived from John.”

Cllr Aengus O’Rourke said councillors had been “winded by the news” and that Mr Walsh would leave a legacy of progress. “Athlone is the capital of the Midlands and John’s forward thinking got it that way. His shoes will be very difficult to fill,” he said.

Meanwhile Cllr Jim Henson paid tribute to the “professional and courteous” way Mr Walsh treated him after he was unsuccessful in previous elections, while Cllr Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran said he always had Athlone at the top of his list and that his name will forever be attached to countless projects.

“There have been huge changes to Athlone since John came to town, between the sports centre, castle, art gallery, Euro Festival, civic centre, and the development of the town as a major retail and business hub,” added Cllr Paul Hogan.

Outgoing mayor Cllr Sheila Buckley Byrne said she had learnt a lot from Mr Walsh’s reflections on what makes up the fabric of a town.

“I found your thoughts on local democracy very interesting, and on the importance of a town taking ownership of itself and taking the decisions that affect its own people,” she said.

County manager Dan McLoughlin and director of service Barry Kehoe also paid tribute to Mr Walsh, promising that a formal occasion would be planned to bid farewell to the town clerk.

“Your emotion here tonight speaks volumes of your passion for the job, which runs very deep,” said Mr McLoughlin.

“You have total humility and dignity but have a quiet courage and determination to get things done...You took this town to your heart.”

 

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