While those in the United States will be celebrating Independence Day tomorrow, it was 'Independents Day' in the chamber of Mayo County Council last Monday, when Independent councillor Michael Holmes was elected as the Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council for the next 12 months. Cllr Holmes' election to the role of first citizen of the county came about through a post election pact by the 10 Fianna Fáil councillors in the council and five of the independent councillors who were elected last June.
However unlike last year, there was no opposition to the election of Cllr Holmes with Fine Gael whip Cllr Jarlath Munnelly giving the backing of the Fine Gael side of the house after his nomination. None of the three Sinn Féin councillors was present at the meeting. Cllr Holmes was proposed for the position by fellow Independent councillor and outgoing Leas Cathaoirleach Cllr Richard Finn, who said: "He's a man who knows how to win and how to lose elections, but he came back and and has made his mark in this council. He's a friend of everyone and a friend of the farmers who he's represented so well, here, across Ireland and further afield." Fianna Fáil councillor Lisa Chambers seconded the nomination of Cllr Holmes saying: "He's a gentleman of integrity and will be a great cathaoirleach for the next year." Cllr Holmes became the first independent councillor to be elected to the position since Cllr Padraig Cosgrove in 1991.
Taking the chain from the outing Cathaoirleach, Cllr Damien Ryan, Holmes said: "It's a honour and privilege to be elected to this position." Outlining his plans for the coming year the new Cathaoirleach said that he wanted to see meetings become more productive than they have been at times. Long time watchers of the council meetings will be aware that the new Cathaoirleach has been a very regular critic of when large numbers of councillors speak at length on issues over which the council has no control, not leaving enough time to deal with the issues they can make decisions on.
Cllr Holmes also said that he would be prioritising the issues of jobs and rural revival, with tourism being a key to these steps, along with farming and fishing. He also suggested setting up a countywide agriculture committee, which existed in the past. The depopulation of rural areas is something that he wanted to see reversed in the coming years.
Fianna Fáil councillor Lisa Chambers who has just completed her second year as an elected councillor was elected to the position of Leas Cathaoirleach of the council, this position was also not contested by the opposition side of the house, but Fine Gael councillor Jarlath Munnelly did stress that she would not be receiving the same kind of support in her upcoming bid to win a seat in the next General Election in the county.