It was a meeting of Mayo County Council like no other on Monday as the local authority hosted its first monthly meeting since the introduction of social distancing and public gathering measures.
Aras an Chontae was full of empty seats with bottles of hand sanitiser almost outnumbering elected representatives. Attendees in the chamber were limited to 10 councillors, two Mayo County Council officials and one representative each from the print and broadcast media. A further 13 councillors tuned in via a live feed set up by the council.
The meeting opened with a minute's applause dedicated 'to all the frontline workers who are carrying out their duties with bravery and diligence', followed by a minute's silence 'for the hundreds of people in Ireland who have lost their lives to Covid-19'.
Warm wishes were passed on to Cllr Gerry Coyle, whose son, Henry, was reported to have recovered after contracting the virus. “The message Henry wanted to get out to people is that this is not a flu we are dealing with,” said the Erris councillor. “Everyone please, stay apart, stay home, stay safe,” he added.
Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Brendan Mulroy, said the role of the council over its four-year term will be a challenge that no previous set of councillors in Mayo has had to contend with.
“We have a duty to the people of this county and I don't think any other council will have faced the job we have to do in the next four and a half years,” said the Fianna Fáil councillor.
Cllr Mulroy said Mayo County Council will stand with the people it serves. “We're here to support every single member of this community and stand side-by-side with every person in this county until we get the situation under control,” he commented.
Mayo County Council will hold another meeting next month on a date yet to be decided. The council is waiting on a potential announcement on the lifting of certain restrictions on May 5 before announcing a date for the next meeting. Some councillors urged the local authority to look at larger venues where social distancing could be more easily maintained and more members could attend.