Mallow Elects Its Final Mayor

The last ever mayoral election took place last Thursday in the council chambers in the Town Hall, while from across the road the bust of JJ (Mallow UDC’s first chairman) looked in the window from his plinth. It really was an historic occasion and I believe that despite what people think about the effectiveness of Mallow Town Council it will be missed when it’s gone. Back to Thursday’s vote, and all nine councillors were present and even if you have lived under a rock for the past month, you would have been able to predict that Cllr Johnny ‘Bottles’ Griffin was about to get the job, because his family were sitting proudly in the public gallery and Johnny himself was dressed to the nines. The meeting was called to order by the outgoing Mayor Noel O’Connor who was handing over the chain of office after his year in the job, and if he was feeling sad at losing the bling, he could console himself that the next day he was set to win the Mayor of Co. Cork vote. Anyway, it falls to the outgoing mayor to speak first and he outlined a busy year with events such as the visit of Tip O’Neill’s relatives , the launch of the €1.4 million streetscape plan for the Clock House area, the Sports and Leisure Awards, Business Awards, completion of the flood relief scheme, and the New Year’s Eve fireworks display. He also referred to the major investment in the town such as the €42 million flood relief scheme, €6.5 Box Cross water scheme, €3m purchase of the castle plus 40 acres of land and the €100 million Dairygold expansion plan. His one regret was that the efforts to purchase the town park had not borne fruit, but he was hopeful that the next mayor would sign off on this before the council is disbanded next June. He also spoke of the day he put on a blindfold and walked up the Main Street to get a feel for what blind and partially sighted people have to put up with. Following his speech, Town Clerk Liz Donovan took charge for the mayoral vote, and the outgoing mayor proposed Cllr Griffin while Cllr James Kennedy nominated Cllr Ronan Sheehan. Before the vote was taken, Cllr Kennedy spoke on the matter and once again looked back to the 2009 local election when Labour won 4 out of 9 seats, 44% of the total vote, but ended up being frozen out after Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and independant joined together to seize control of the mayor’s seat for the coming five years. He claimed Labour’s vote in that election was the highest vote of any party in the history of Mallow Town Council, and despite his warning to Cllr O’Connor, he “deliberately ignored the people’s vote in putting this amalga-mation of parties in charge of this town”. He went on to add a claim that the council would not be in existence today if Labour hadn’t supported the 2013 budget after Sinn Féin decided to vote against it, in the full knowledge that in doing so they were voting to have this council abolished and in direct contradiction of their pledge to the voters of Mallow that they would serve the town’s interest to the full five years. In reply Cllr Willie O’Regan of the aforementioned Sinn Fein said that labour had short memories as in 2004 the shoe was on the other foot and they didn’t care about others. The vote followed and the result was as inevitable as the coming of nightfall, Cllr Griffin defeating Cllr Sheehan 5-4. As the roll call around the table, Cllr O’Regan said he was voting for “Cllr Griffin, with pleasure! “And when it came to Cllr Sheehan, he said “Cllr Sheehan, with pleasure”, which drew a good laugh. The newly elected Mayor, then rose to his feet and headed for the top table where Cllr O’Connor handed over the chain of office and so began Mayor Griffin’s year in office. In his maiden speech, the mayor said it was a great privilege for himself and his family, and he hoped he would emulate the many mayors who went before him. He thanked the people who voted for him in 2009, and also his wife Sheila and family and emotions came to the surface briefly as he mentioned his late parents, his niece Deirdre and his mother-in-law Maureen Horgan who passed away earlier this year. “To the people of Mallow my door will always be open to ye”, he concluded, to applause. Next came the vote for Deputy Mayor and Cllr O’Regan proposed Cllr Fitzgerald, while Cllr Sheehan proposed Cllr Mullally. Again the vote went 5-4, Labour’s Cllr Mullally losing out to Cllr Fitzgerald, with Cllr Kennedy saying to the new Deputy Mayor, “you can take the knife out of your back now Dan Joe!” In his speech, Cllr Fitzgerald said Mallow was being engulfed into a much bigger area with the coming of the new multiple council next year, and with representatives to be cut to 6 councillors to cover Mallow, Kanturk and Newmarket, he called on the people of Mallow to vote for local candidates as “Mallow needs representation”. Cllr Jerry Mulally also spoke and true to form he wasn’t exactly blowing kisses at Cllr O’Connor. “Tis a great occasion, but I blame only one man, Cllr O’Connor who has been boasting but we have 50 derelict buildings and unless we do something we’re going nowhere”. He also referred to Cllr Fitzgerald getting the job to open the new public toilet in St. James Avenue saying “I can’t understand why he didn’t open the toilet” and Cllr Kennedy chipped in with “it’s a poisoned chalice!” Cllr Mulally concluded with “It’s a big year for Mallow and I’m disappointed (about Labour losing the vote) and I blame Noel O’Connor!” Cllr O’Regan congratulated the new Mayor saying “it’s a great occasion and you should take hold of it and grasp it”. He added “You have the motivation and you deserve it. There’s no fear of you at all, boy!” Turning to Cllr Kennedy, he said “I know you got 44% in the last election but there is still 56%!” Cllr Kennedy spoke again and said that while he was critical of the 2009 pact, he wished the new mayor success. “It’s a huge honour and you’re making history as the last Mayor of Mallow. I know you’ll be a good mayor”, he said, adding that maybe the Mayor and Manager will be able to progress the Mallow Bridge Boardwalk Project. Cllr O’Connor, referring to the 2009 agreement, jokingly said it was a pity that there weren’t 9 year elections as then everyone could be Mayor. After councillors and management had said their bit, the public gallery was asked if it wanted to speak and after a pause, Johnny’s daughter Shania said “Well done dad!”. The Mayor’s wife Sheila said “I want to know, who was the first to use the public toilet?” Cllr Dan Joe Fitzgerald, “Ask Johnny!” Mayor Griffin “It was me actually!” And with that the meeting concluded and councillors and the new mayor’s family posed for the traditional post-election photographs and everyone was invited to the Mousetrap Bar for refreshments and a bit of a hooley. As for poor JJ, he had to stay on his plinth, looking forlornly in the window at a council chamber with a limited shelf life.