Portarlington independent councillor Paul Mitchell was elected chairman of Laois County Council last Monday, eight years after first entering politics.
A jovial Council Chambers was filled to bursting with family and friends of Cllr Mitchell, who cheered as he donned the chain of office, helped by outgoing Chairman John Bonham.
The new Cathaoirleach thanked his colleagues for the honour bestowed on him and his family. The chairmanship is reward for Cllr Mitchell who holds the balance of power in county hall. He backed Fine Gael after the last local election.
“Every dog has its day, it must be my day, I will try not to growl too much,” he quipped.
He thanked his wife Majella and their three sons, and his friends Matt Moore, Noel O’Sullivan and Peter and Frances Blong.
“Peter would always cheer you up. I remember visiting him in the garden once and asking him how the onions were going, he said ‘Frances thinks I’m sewing onions, I’m digging a tunnel to the Hawthorne’,” he said.
“I look forward to working with Peter Carey and all the staff, I know we are working under pressure, and have lost a lot of staff, but I will work to the best of my abilities. The location of Laois is fabulous, we have scenery, castles, and friendly people, Most of all I would like to focus on tourism, and job creation,” he said, ending by inviting everyone to The Anvil pub for celebrations and a singsong.
Cllr Bonham wished him well for his year in office.
“You are one of those guys who does know how to sing Quando Quando. But the business of Laois County Council will also be taken very seriously,” he said.
Cllr Michael Lalor had words of wisdom.
“The deeper you get into politics, the more bitter you become. I hope you keep up the smiling face,” he said.
Cllr Willie Aird recalled Cllr Mitchell’s lack of knowledge, coming from a teaching background into council politics.
“You hadn’t a clue, I remember saying to you ‘That’s not how it works’. You were a member of the PDs, and you started again from the ashes, it was a huge achievement. You had an opportunity to show that your deep concern was people and that’s what you did. I wish you good luck,” he said.
Cllr John Moran was elected vice chairman.
Also running for election was Fianna Fáil Cllr Jerry Lodge, who ruefully remarked that he always seemed to draw the short straw.
“That’s democracy. I wish you well, anything we can do to co-operate we will,” he said.