The new Mayor of Ballina, Fianna Fáil councillor Johnny O’Malley, has set out his stall in what looks to be the last year of the town council.
Cllr O’Malley was elected to the position at Wednesday night’s AGM of the council. After taking the chain of office, Cllr O’Malley said that he was honoured to be taking over the position, but also saddened that this would in all probability be the last time someone would be elected to the position, with the expected disbandment of town councils before next year’s Local Elections.
Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser after the meeting, Cllr O’Malley said one of his main ambitions over the coming year would be to ensure that Ballina is awarded the Purple Flag, an accreditation scheme that recognises excellence in the management of town and city centres at night.
Cllr O’Malley explained that this is an internationally recognised award and considerable work has already gone into this project with the installation of 22 CCTV cameras in the town. Only a few places in Ireland have received the accolade, Dublin’s Creative Quarter and Dame District and Ennis in Co Clare, and Cllr O’Malley said it would bring the whole community of Ballina together. He said he has already had talks with the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and members of the hospitality sector, and a subcommittee are ready to commence the process of applying for the flag. An application will be submitted in October with an adjudication process commencing after that.
“At one stage there were five nightclubs in Ballina. There was a thriving night life but we’ve lost all that. This will be another way of stoking the economy,” Cllr O’Malley added.
There are 28 other capital projects which have been highlighted by the local councillors to be progressed over the coming year. These include the completion of the Jackie Clarke Library, the Mary Robinson Centre, and the National Salmon Life Centre.
The take over of estates will be something which Cllr O’Malley will be working on as well as the problem of dereliction in the town.
“It’s a short year but they [the Government] decided to pull the plug so we have to make the best of the year. Pride of place has been one of my mottos down through time. It’s nobody else’s place. It’s our place and we have to have pride in it,” Cllr O’Malley told the Mayo Advertiser.
Expressing his personal concerns about the abolition of the town councils in his opening address at Wednesday night’s meeting, he said: “It seems that we have moved to a presidential style of politics in Ireland, with the Taoiseach and only a few ministers making the decisions. When it comes to local issues, TDs don’t seem to have their say on them, that’s left to the town councils. Any time we made a decision here, it was for the betterment of the town, and the decisions we made were all in the town’s best interest. You only have to look at decisions we made here to ensure that our town centre was kept as strong as it could, we may have gotten criticism from quarters for not allowing big developments on the outskirts of the town, but they were made in good faith and have seen the town centre remain the heart of the town.”
He went on to say that he looked forward to working with all the councillors to ensure this last year would see the councillors do the best job they could for Ballina.
Fine Gael councillor Barry McLoughlin was elected Deputy Mayor. He said he was honoured to take the position and would do all he could to work with Cllr O’Malley and make sure that everyone knew what a fantastic town Ballina was.
Before the election of the new Mayor, the outgoing mayor Cllr Willie Nolan thanked all the councillors and the council staff for their support over the past year. He told the meeting that over the course of the year he had attended 140 public engagements as Mayor and it was a year he would never forget.