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Michael O’Meara’s Mayoral Acceptance Speech

North Tipperary’s Mayoral acceptance speech (Find hereunder) by Councillor Michael O’Meara, during the Annual Meeting of North Tipperary County Council, which took place here in Thurles on Monday last, June 25th 2012 at St. Patrick’s College.

Fellow Councillors, County Manager and Executive, Family members. It is a great honour for me to be elected as mayor of North Tipperary. I look forward to working with you all during the coming year for the good of the communities of North Tipperary. I would like to thank my proposer Cllr John Rocky Mcgrath and my seconder Cllr Virginia O Dowd and thank the members for their trust and support in me, to hold this office. At this point I would like to also pay tribute to Cllr Micheal Lowry for his hard work and commitment to the office during the past year.

At this present time in North Tipperary we are going through huge social, economic and geographical changes. Never more since the foundation of the state are Families, Households and Businesses going through such financial and social upheaval than they are at this time. On a daily basis, we as local representatives know only too well the enormous stress that people are suffering, through loss of income, unemployment and emigration.  It is quite evident that parents with young families are struggling to meet mortgage repayments and provide a basic standard of living to their children. Property owners are facing household water and sewerage charges and are uncertain as to what other financial burdens will be forced on them into the future. Young adults once more face the prospect of emigration or exorbitant college fees and poor job prospects in the near future.  Farmers and rural dwellers face draconian measures and regulations handed down from the EU and National Government which will have a devastating effect on rural life in the future.
Now more than ever we the elected members of North Tipperary County Council must stand united to deliver an efficient service to all communities.  During my term as Mayor one of my priorities will be to highlight issues such as these and to ensure that these people have a voice and that realistic solutions are given to these people and communities. North Tipperary County council has always had a very strong social remit and never before was our mission statement of “serving the Community” been needed more.

 As you all know this council has been operating in a very challenging and unprecedented economic environment over the past few years. National Budgetary pressures and the reduced programme of public expenditure have resulted in substantial reductions of allocations from Central Government. To compound the problem local economic margins and the visible signs of business struggling have reduced all of our income sources.  In spite of this North Tipperary County Council has delivered an efficient standard of service through strict expenditure control. During my term as Mayor one of my main priorities will be to continue this trend which has seen a reduction in the rates since 2010 by 7%.  I will be working with the Manager to ensure a further reduction in rates at this year’s Budget Meeting. I also will be working to ensure that there are no increases in water and parking charges. The maintenance of our existing businesses and the creation of new jobs are critical to the recovery of our local economy.

I, along with you my fellow councillors have been calling for a reform of the Development charges which have stifled development in an already depressed business environment. Therefore I welcome the substantial reduction in development charges and the establishment of the Enterprise Support Unit, which in my view will pay dividends into the future. There is a duty on us now to sell the message that North Tipperary is open for Business and we must do everything to support our existing retail, commercial and industrial industries. I also welcome the closer ties between the North Tipperary Enterprise board and the Council and I will be calling on agencies such as the IDA, Shannon Development and Enterprise Ireland to finally recognise that North Tipperary now has the proper infrastructure and work force to accommodate major Multi-National investment into the County.

I have been a councillor since 2004 and during that time I have been honoured to serve the people of the Borrisokane electoral area and since 2009 the Borrisokane/Nenagh area. During that time I along with my fellow councillors have worked well together to ensure that their interests were always well served in the Council chamber.  I welcome new initiatives and developments such as the new Borrisokane Community College and the new Day Care centre for Borrisokane and also the confirmation of road realignment on the N52 at Congar/Ballyluskey. I also welcome the further development of Nenagh Hospital with the new Endoscopy Suite and the redevelopment of two new Operating Suites, fully refurbished day wards  and an all round upgrade of staff facilities.  I look forward to the completion of these projects and the benefits that they will bring to the local community.

Fellow councillors, we the people of Tipperary have a long and proud tradition. Right across the sporting spectrum from our successes on the GAA, soccer, rugby and athletics fields through to our outstanding achievements in the horseracing and equestrian world. In business and industry Tipperary is a brand name, recognized nationally and internationally. In the Arts, in entertainment and culture we have made our mark. We have entrepreneurs and innovators, peacekeepers and pioneers who all have a great affinity and connection with the Premier County.
But now the Tipperary Brand name is under a great threat. Politically we face a huge challenge in the redrafting of the Boundary which will see all of Lower Ormond North of Nenagh going into Offaly and the amalgamation of North and South Tipperary. It is my opinion that both these changes will have huge negative changes in local democracy in our county. On the aforementioned boundary change, I as Mayor will do all in my power to reverse this change as soon as possible and bring lower Ormond back into Tipperary. I believe that it is a scandal this area was taken from Tipperary, without any prior consultation or notification. The fear that I have is that my area of Lower Ormond will become a Gaza Strip, a political back – water, without investment and without representation. We cannot underestimate the depth of feeling of the people in the lower Ormond area on this matter. The voters of north Tipperary, the voters of Lower Ormond are extremely angry and frustrated. They do not want to vote in Offaly for candidates that they have no ties of affinity with, no more than the voters in South Offaly wanted to vote for Tipperary candidates in the last elections.

On the amalgamation, I also believe that this is a retrograde step. We as local councillors on a daily basis work at the coal face of political life; we are accessible in every community in North Tipperary. My greatest fear is that the more rural communities will suffer greatly because they may not have the critical mass to elect a councillor, leaving them without a voice at the council table. It is these rural communities that often need our help the most. I also agree with the argument that this amalgamation will have very little savings if any to the exchequer.

As Mayor, I will work with you my fellow councillors on these issues and any other issues you may have. I will ensure that there is honest and open debate and everyone has an equal opportunity to express their views in the Council Chamber. We have all been elected to serve the people of North Tipperary as best we can and I will encourage unity of purpose rather than political or personal point scoring.

I am looking forward to working with the County Manager and staff. I want to thank them for the kindness and courtesy shown to me since I became a Councillor and I’m sure that all of you hear present will recognise the work being done by this council with limited resources and recruitment restrictions both internally and externally.
We are going through difficult times & we face a major challenge in the adoption of the budget later on in the year.  However, I am confident in the ability of this council to overcome any obstacle in the future as we have done in the past and that we will work together for the betterment of our communities.

Fellow Councillors we have a county to be proud of and it is a great honour for me to serve as your Mayor.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh go leir.

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