“You must be a brave man to be stepping into politics, but it’s brave men we need,” was the dubious welcome extended to Westmeath’s newest councillor Peter Keaney at his first county council meeting on Monday.
Newly installed Labour councillor Peter Keaney took the Coole Area seat vacated by Cllr Dan McCarthy on his recent retirement. He was nominated by his Labour colleagues Cllrs Denis Leonard and Ger Corcoran.
It was his Coole colleague, Fianna Fáil’s Cllr Paddy Hill, who hinted at the enormity of the task facing the new councillor.
“He has big shoes to fill. I have huge respect for Dan and his service to the county and the areas he represented. I very much regret the fact that Dan decided to call it a day and I know Cllr Keaney will have the same quality; he is a good community man who works hard for his area,” he said.
Cathaoirleach Cllr Mark Cooney welcomed Cllr Keaney to the chamber, assuring him of the full co-operation of his fellow councillors.
Cllr Frank McDermott said it was a great honour for the new councillor, advising him that “respect has to be earned”; “If you have the interests of the community at heart, people will appreciate it. To fill Dan McCarthy’s shoes is a mammoth task,” he added.
County manager Dan McLoughlin added his words of welcome, saying Cllr Keaney was joining at “an interesting and dynamic time” for local government.
Taking his seat in the chamber, Cllr Keaney paid tribute to Cllr McCarthy for the “lifetime of service” he had given to the council.
“His work as a councillor formerly in Mullingar East and more recently in Coole has always been exemplary. I too share Dan’s belief that a strong agricultural sector is an essential component of the economic and social infrastructure of the Coole area, and I will continue to support and be a voice for the many farm families in the Coole electoral area.”
He highlighted areas in which he intends working, including assisting community groups in providing better facilities and services, improving educational facilities in particular safe access around schools, and providing more FETAC courses for school leavers and adult learners in the local area.
“I look forward to working with the Labour Party team on Westmeath County Council and while we live in difficult economic times, I feel that we can continue to deliver for our communities,” he added.