The number of elected members of Mayo County Council went back up to 30 this week after the co-option of Sinn Fein's Teresa Whelan to the council to replace Senator Rose Conway Walsh. This was the second co-option to the council after this year Oireachtas elections, following the co-option of Cllr Martin McLoughlin to replace Fianna Fáil's Dep Lisa Chambers in the Spring.
Cllr Whelan was proposed for co-option, by Sinn Féin councillor Gerry Murray. Senator Conway-Walsh was present in the chamber to see the Belmullet native take her seat on the council. Also in the public gallery were members of Cllr Whelan's family and supporters, including her husband Ray and daughter Jessica.
Outlining her ambitions for her term on the council, Cllr Whelan said: "The country has been savaged by emigration and as someone who had to emigrate in the 1980s, I know only too well the effect it has on communities and families. One of my priorities will be to improve on infrastructure and to try and attract jobs and entrerprise into the county. As a a business person, I understand the challenges faced by SMEs and I believe it is our duty to try and support them."
There was a warm welcome to the council for Cllr Whelan, with one of the most colourful contributions coming from Fine Gael councillor John Cribben, who told the meeting that he knew Cllr Whelan from the time she ran the Full Shilling Pub in Ballyhaunis and how he had all of his campaign meetings and celebrations for his first council election in 1999 in the pub.
He also told a story that he remembered being in the pub on the night it first opened and that "a young lady was proposed to that night in the pub and after a little bit of hesitation, the lady said yes. And who was that lady in question, she's sitting right behind me now, none other than Senator Rose Conway Walsh," which brought much laughter and cheering to the council chamber.