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Sinn Féin’s Cora Harvey elected as Mayor for County Donegal

30 June, 2010


Speaking today upon her election as mayor for County Donegal in the County House in Lifford, Sinn Féin’s Cora Harvey said that Donegal has been faced with many challenges and difficulties over the past year but that her election today signified to her hope and change for the new political year.

She said:

“We are embarking on a new political year. Many of you that voted for me did so without sharing all my views, this I believe is a significant signal of change. You have accepted me as your Cathaoirligh, so from today on I represent you and this County, regardless of political persuasion.

“My aim is to improve public confidence in Donegal Politics, in the democratic process and to make this council efficient, effective and accountable; that is my goal.

“Our County faces mass unemployment with nearly 30% of our work force on the live register, almost 1 in 3 unemployed and our young people are emigrating in their dozens. We must work together to urge the new Minister for Enterprise Batt o Keefe to stand up for Donegal and to immediately implement a job strategy.

“We must target social housing and support the implementation of the recommendations of the homeless strategy; we must eradicate homelessness in Donegal and work in partnership with the HSE in addressing the accommodation needs of those suffering from addiction.

“We need to pursue and progress the major infrastructure projects in our county to name but a few the N14/N15 A5 link and the Stranorlar By-Pass and we need to aggressively tackle the soaring litter problem and illegal dumping in our County and ensure that recent motions in relation to estate takeovers are realised. Furthermore, we need to strengthen our ties with our colleagues and neighbours in the North, we have so much to offer each other and cross border co-operation is vital for a County such as ours.” ENDS


(Full speech follows)

Cora Harvey: Acceptance Speech as Méara of County Donegal.

Elected representatives, manager, members of the Executive – directors and staff, members of the public, family and friends and members of the media.

Ar dtús, ba mhaith liom rá go bhfuil brón orm nach bhfuil a lán gaelige agam, ach tá súil agam roimh deireadh an bliain seo, go mbeidh gaelige maith agam.

I want to thank you all sincerely for joining us here today in the County House in Lifford.

Can I extend a céad míle fáilte roimh Mr. Pat Doherty, MP for West Tyrone and take this opportunity to congratulate him on his fantastic landslide in the Westminster Elections, Comhghairdeas Pat and well done.

I would also like to welcome back into the chamber Senator Pearse Doherty and acknowledge my predecessor Mr. Tony McDaid who unfortunately couldn’t be here. Also I see members from Strabane District Council, newly elected Mayor Ms Macheala Boyle and Councillor Kieran Maguire. It is a great honour to have you all here today. It is particularly touching for me as I have family roots in Strabane and my late father Jim hailed from the ‘head of the town,’ so am delighted that members of Strabane Council came to this occasion today.

I would also extend a warm welcome to my grandfather Johnny, who is approaching his 90th year. Members of the Mc Aleer, Quinn, Harvey and Gallen family, especially my mother Roseanna, Husband Brian, and children Dean-James and Naomh, and finally to members and supporters of the Sinn Féin party, I am glad you could join us today, as without you today would not be the same and actually would not have happened.

I want to take a moment now to reflect on the past year since our newly elected council was constituted and I want to wish out going Méara Mr. Brendan Byrne well in the time ahead. .

Donegal has been faced with many challenges and difficulties over the past year; furthermore the difficulties we endured were compounded by the economic downturn, which led to a huge reduction in Council funding, staff cutbacks, and ultimately a reduced service provision. We also experienced change at an executive service level, where senior experienced public servants retired, this resulted in amalgamation of services and cross cover. The public sector recruitment embargo and industrial dispute were also factors to consider.

To the members of the council who voted for me today, I want to thank you for respecting my mandate and on behalf of the people that elected me and on behalf of Sinn Féin I thank you.

This is a big day for me, for my family, for my constituents and finally for my party, because today is historic for us and indeed for you because you put me here. I believe I am the first Sinn Féin Cathaoirligh in over 90 years, the first ever female Méara and only the second female Cathaoirligh. On that note I wish to acknowledge sentiments by ex –Chairperson and County Councilor Ms Maureen Doohan for her good wishes. I also want to pay tribute today to past members of this council and more specifically to those who are no longer with us. Today we remember Councillor Eddie Fullerton, a man who tragically lost his life because of his political beliefs and because he stood up for what he believed in. Eddie served for 12 years on this council and by no means did he get it easy, it is with great honour and pride that I represent his party here today as Méara as we approach the 20th anniversary of his murder. Eddie will always be remembered by his Sinn Féin colleagues both here in Donegal and further afield and I am sure he is smiling down on us today.

Today for me signifies acceptance, hope and change. We are embarking on a new political year. Many of you that voted for me did so without sharing all my views, this I believe is a significant signal of change. You have accepted me as your Cathaoirligh, so from today on I represent you and this County, regardless of political persuasion. I am now your Cathaoirligh for the next 12 months and I sincerely hope that we can work together. I believe that we can, but if we are to work together effectively change must happen. I am young and I am still learning, you can take political advantage of that, which is your choice. I have made my decision and I have chosen to work with every elected member of this Council and I will respect your mandate. My aim is to improve public confidence in Donegal Politics, in the democratic process and to make this council efficient, effective and accountable, that is my goal and your aim will help. Since my short time in Donegal County Council I have been enlightened by the political unity that can be presented on communal projects, when we work together for the common good of our County we can make great advances and achieve great things. That is what I want to see happen more and more, surely each area will have their own projects and that must continue, that will continue.

We have a difficult job to do, we all have the same job to do and the problem is we have all been trained very differently to do that job, but that I believe can be used to our advantage rather than to our disadvantage. We have a wealth of experience and knowledge within the confines of Donegal County Council and I don’t believe that we have been utilizing these attributes to the best of our ability. We were the subject of negative media controversy over the past year, much to our own doing, we can change that image and increase public confidence and improve our public image, again colleagues I urge you to help me in this endeavor.

The year ahead economically is going to be no better than last, we have another tough year ahead, difficult decisions to make and limited resources to work with, however the show must continue, roads need to be fixed, houses needs to be allocated and water treatment must be maintained.

Our County faces mass unemployment with nearly 30% of our work force on the live register, almost 1 in 3 unemployed and our young people are emigrating in their dozens.
Small businesses are facing extinction, house repossessions are on the increase and debt is spiraling.

We must work together to urge the new Minister for Enterprise Batt o Keefe to stand up for Donegal and to immediately implement a job strategy, in the coming months I will convene a special conference aimed specifically at tackling unemployment in our county pulling together all the relevant stakeholders and I will be requesting that the IDA, Údaras na Gaeltachta and Enterprise Ireland report directly back to us on their efforts for Donegal.

We must target social housing and support the implementation of the recommendations of the homeless strategy; we must eradicate homelessness in Donegal and work in partnership with the HSE in addressing the accommodation needs of those suffering from addiction. We need to pursue and progress the major infrastructure projects in our county to name but a few the N14/N15 A5 link and the Stranorlar By-Pass. We need to aggressively tackle the soaring litter problem and illegal dumping in our County and ensure that recent motions in relation to estate takeovers are realised. Furthermore we need to strengthen our ties with our colleagues and neighbors in the North, we have so much to offer each other and cross border co-operation is vital for a County such as ours.

As I hope the year ahead is a time of change and co-operation I hope to open the office of Mayor to individual and community groups, I want to make the office of Mayor more open and more accessible. I want to encourage civic leadership and encourage active civic representation in this chamber. I intend to acknowledge the active work of volunteerism through civic award ceremonies and honor all those who make a valuable contribution to our society such as carers and youth workers. I intend to keep the spirit of ‘Donegal Live’ alive and work with the tourism bodies in promoting our towns and villages.

Ta a lán obair le déanamh again uilig an bhilian seo, ach creidim ma obríonn muid uilig le chéile, déanfaidh muid an rud ceart fa choinne Dun na nGall. I look forward to being your Méara and thank you once again for supporting me today.

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