In his acceptance speech to the Elected Representatives present, Mayor Lowry stated:
“We are all aware of the economic difficulties that face our country at present. The government is committed to saving a further €3.6 billion in the 2012 budget. This is outside our control and has to be achieved as part of the IMF/ECB deal. Despite this there is a huge demand on the Local Authority to provide an ever increasing array of services to a worried and beleaguered public in North Tipperary.
However it is vital that, as Public Representatives, we are realistic in what we can achieve for our constituents, during a time when Local Authority resources will be restricted even further. Therefore it is my intention during my time as Mayor to work closely with our County Manager to identify resource and support deficiencies within the core units of housing, roads, water services and environment. I will use my Office to convey to Government in clear and concise terms the importance of continued, and hopefully in some areas, improved investment in our county.
To have a real impact on our national recovery, the members of the Council must recognise that our economic crisis has also precipitated a moral crisis for many of our national institutions and organisations. Confidence is low and national morale needs an injection of energy and creativity at every level. Our financial institutions and their rules including the indicators by which they measure economic performance, consistently place financial values ahead of human values. Traditionally we have measured economic performance against gross domestic product (GDP), which simply measures the rate at which money flows through the economy. I believe we would be better off if our economic performance was measured in real terms by the indicators which matter most to us, the health and well-being of our family, our children and our community. It is my belief that a strong economy must have strong local roots and maximise our county’s local resources. It is in this context that I would like to highlight the following priorities that will be the foundation of my tenure as Mayor.
The immediate expediting of Departmental funds, to allow the Council carry out all outstanding necessary improvements and repairs to its housing stock ensuring that all Council owned properties are fit for purpose and habitable at all times. This simple measure will allay the frustration of many people on our ever growing housing list who constantly question the number of boarded up Council properties.
We must ensure that our road network is maintained and improved to allow both motorists and pedestrians to travel safely. Significant progress has been made in recent years on the main roads and I would like to acknowledge the work carried out by our Engineers and outdoor staff in achieving these improvements. However it is now time to impress on the Department that investment is long overdue, with regard to our minor county roads. We must also continue to press for delivery of critical infrastructures such as the Thurles Bypass and Link Road, and the Ballina/Killaloe Bridge.
Tourism within the County has huge potential economic benefits. We have natural and historic tourist attractions, notably Lough Derg and Holycross Abbey, and now coupled to these Moneygall has grown to international prominence. The proposed Tipperary Venue has the capability of attracting international as well as national visitors to our area. There is a need for the continued development of a clear Tourism strategy between North and South Tipperary and Offaly Councils to maximise the tourist opportunities that these locations offer. This strategy must engage all interested parties and promote every aspect of tourism within the county.
On the business front we need to protect our agriculture sector. Our reliance on food imports needs to be reduced and we must strive for local food independence by continuing to build our local food systems, based on family farms and small independent producers. Currently Bord Bia works with more than 350 Irish artisan and food companies. These have an annual estimated turnover of over €500m and support more than 3000 jobs. It is thought that the sector has the potential to double these figures by 2016. I believe that Tipperary is ideally positioned to participate and avail of this growth as it possesses some of the best farming land in the European Union. It is my intention as Mayor to promote at every opportunity, the Tipperary farmers and food producers, who provide exceptional produce for national and international consumption, while creating opportunities for much needed employment.
We need to continue to support those with an entrepreneurial flair in setting up their own businesses. The Government and County Council must do all in their power to promote responsible local ownership of business by people who have a stake in the health of their local community and local economy. The recent establishment of the Enterprise Support Unit by the County Manager and the new enterprise centre at Tipperary Institute are most welcome. These developments in tandem with the imminent launch of the Tipperary.com website will provide invaluable assistance to start up companies and established companies that are looking to expand. It is my hope that the Minister at the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government will attend the launch of the website and provide a platform for both the County Manager and I to impress upon him the huge economic potential of our county.
These are some of the key pillars of policy and practice that will engage me over the coming year. I will endeavour to ensure that every opportunity available is grasped for this county, because I believe we have a fabulous product here that can be marketed and sold all over Ireland and beyond. The moral well-being and health of our County can act as a barometer for the rest of the country and so my commitment is about much more than money and jobs; it is about moral courage and conviction; it is about belief and creativity; it is about faith in this great county that I am proud to lead over the next year.”