There was a palpable sense of loss among councillors at Monday’s county council meeting as they united in paying warm tributes to their former colleague Fintan Cooney, who passed away on Saturday, March 14.
Cathaoirleach Paddy Hill described him as “a very decent” and “very much respected” man, with whom he had the privilege of serving for several years.
“When Fintan spoke everyone would pay attention, because he didn’t contribute until he had something worth contributing,” he said, adding that the Westmeath farming community would also miss his veterinary expertise.
His party colleague Cllr Peter Burke said that “gentleman” was the word most associated with Mr Cooney, who had been in the habit of bringing the ‘Serenity Prayer’ with him into every council meeting.
“He was very fair to everyone. It was a privilege in 2011 when Fintan nominated me to contest the Dáil elections. He was always one to give very sound advice.
“He had a huge amount of happiness in himself, in his outlook on life and his devotion to his family,” he added.
Speaking on behalf of the Fianna Fáil group, Cllr Paul Daly said he had had “many a meeting” with Mr Cooney while smoking a cigarette outside the side door during breaks in council meetings.
“I learnt more there than I ever did in the council chamber, I built a great relationship with him. Fintan was frank, direct, and straight to the point, and had a common sense approach,” he said.
Labour’s Cllr Johnnie Penrose described Mr Cooney as a “gentleman out and out”, while Sinn Féin’s Cllr Paul Hogan said he was “an affable character” who had made a significant contribution to the development of Westmeath.
Meanwhile Independent Cllr Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran said one of Mr Cooney’s strengths had been in finding a solution when various political parties were fighting.
Chief executive Pat Gallagher also expressed his condolences to Mr Cooney’s family on behalf of the council executive and staff.