On a historic night for Castlebar Town Council, when Cllr Noreen Heston became the final Mayor of the authority, there was not much room left to spare in the packed chamber of Marsh Haouse, as family and friends from Ballycroy to Castlebar and even London were packed in to the chamber and down the stairs in the building to see her accept the chain of office. Cllr Heston succeeded her Fine Gael party colleague Cllr Brendan Henaghan for the position, and became only the second woman to hold the honour in the town. Fittingly for the night that was in it, the first female mayor, Eanya Egan, was present in the chamber and she took a seat at the council table and was not afraid to throw a few barbs across the chamber at some of her former colleagues, during some of the light hearted moments of the evening.
Indeed Mayor Heston singled out Ms Egan at the start of her first speech as mayor, saying: “As I look down among you this evening, I see the only other female to serve as mayor in this town, Ms Eanya Egan, in her modesty she teases us that she only achieved two things a phone box at the train station and two taps in the old cemetery.” But there was a third according to Egan herself who interjected saying, “And putting smacht on Frank Durcan.”
With this being the last time Castlebar Town Council would hold an AGM, Cllr Heston took time to praise those who had gone before her in the chamber, but also looked forward to what was coming down the line, saying: “There have been many fine public representatives who have served in this chamber over the years and made a significant contribution to this town. I’d like to pay tribute to them all. At the end of this term Castlebar Town Council will be replaced and the town will be served by a municipal authority and I see it as progress. The people of this town will continue to be served by local representatives, although they will be fewer in number.”
Cllr Heston took time to thank her family, especially her parents for all they had done for her, saying: “I’m a native of Dooriel in Ballycroy, a place and people I hold dear. I took example from my parents, my mother Bridget and my deceased father Jim, knowing that they had reared 11 children. I’ve seven sisters and three brothers. My parents raised the 11 of us and we wanted for nothing and did it with very little. They worked extremely hard as parents and made extreme sacrifices for us as children.”Cllr Heston told the chamber that she knows it is testing times for people in the country but she can see a brighter future for all. “I understand what parents and households are going through at the moment, all I can say is this difficult time will pass. Most of us still have the best things in life which are family, friends, and community, the most positive thing about this recession is that people are making time for each other and supporting each other. There is a return to core values, our community spirit has grown stronger and it’s something that we need to preserve in the years ahead.”
Castlebar has been Cllr Heston’s home for more than a decade now and she took time to thank the people of the town for making her so welcome: “Like so many others, I emigrated to London in the 1980s and returned to live in Castlebar 13 years ago. Since then I’ve been embraced by the people of this town. I want to take this chance to thank those who made me feel so welcome and to the people of Castlebar for accepting me as part of their community. I was elected to this council four years ago and it has been my honour and privilege to serve the people of this town since. I think we have all worked well together as a council and I’d like to thank you all, both the elected and the non-elected members for your support. Castlebar has grown down through the years and I believe it will continue to do so. Like so many other towns we’re going through a difficult period, but I believe our future is bright and we have a lot to look forward to. Let us ensure that we work together as a community, both inside and outside of politics to ensure an even brighter future.”
She concluded her acceptance speech with a very simple message of what she hopes to do as the town’s first citizen: “May I conclude by saying a very, very, special thanks to Katie [daughter], to my mother, my family and extended family, and all my friends and colleagues. And I will do my best as your first citizen of the town.”