Sunday 18 August 2019

It's Mayor Dempsey as the pact holds firm

New Mayor of Wexford, Tony Dempsey, with family members and friends at the meeting in Wexford Arts Centre
New Mayor of Wexford, Tony Dempsey, with family members and friends at the meeting in Wexford Arts Centre

Maria Pepper at the Mayoral election in Wexford Arts Centre

He has been a teacher, school principal, businessman, hurling manager, a TD and County Council chairman. Now Fianna Fail man Tony Dempsey is adding a new string to his bow after being elected Mayor of Wexford for the final year of the Borough District Council.

His elevation to First Citizen was guaranteed by the terms of a pact agreed in 2014 with Cllrs. George Lawlor, Ger Carthy, Jim Moore, Frank Staples and the late Fergie Kehoe which gave him six votes to four for the other candidate Cllr Mick Roche (Sinn Fein) who was supported by Cllrs Tony Walsh, David Hynes and Thomas Forde.

In accepting the gold chains of office, the 74-year old Davidstown native and long-term Barntown adoptee addressed a crowd of supporters which included his wife Gemma, his children, grandchildren and his siblings including his brother Fr Nick who travelled from Santiago in the US for the Council AGM in Wexford Arts Centre.

Acknowledging that he is the first Fianna Fail Mayor since 1996 when the late Dominic Kiernan held the office, he said he read somewhere that one of Dominic's stated ambitions on being elected was to see a reduction in crime. Two weeks later, the solid gold chains which Tony was now wearing, were stolen.

'I hope my ambitions are not going to have a counter-productive result. Be careful what you wish for', said the newly-elected Mayor as he outlined his key interests - education, democracy, the arts, local transport, the development of Rosslare Eurport and a technological university for the south east

The former Enniscorthy Vocational College principal quoted Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Romero as he spoke about education being a powerful tool in overcoming disadvantage and the importance of democracy and 'the need to give people who don't vote a reason to do so'.

As well as science, technology, engineering and maths, art too is necessary in the world whether that is poetry, music, painting or drama, he said.

'When a young person says they want to become an actor, a parent may feel there is not much money in it but there may be happiness in it. That is what we need to get back for the mental health of our children. Yes, there is a place for actresses and poets', he said.

The Mayor said he would like to see an initiative where each primary school in the district would put forward two of their best performers and artists to take part in a showcase of talent at an event in The Street in County Hall in Carricklawn.

He proposes to hold an extra Borough District meeting to discuss Rosslare Europort and the south-east university,

'A report carried out by Maynooth University shows us to be a very disadvantaged county. One of the ways to change that is to work together', he said, paying tribute to the outgoing mayors of the electoral term, George Lawlor, Frank Staples, Ger Carthy and Jim Moore and said he would do his best to 'emulate the dignity and professionalism that my predecessors brought to the office'.

The Mayor thanked his wife Gemma for her patience throughout his career and credited his parents John and Majella for giving him a love of community as he grew up in a different era of the mill, the forge and the post office.

He paid tribute to his late colleague Fergie Kehoe and said there was 'a touch of poignancy for us in Fianna Fail tonight'.

Cllr Lisa McDonald was the first to congratulate the new Mayor whom she described as 'an inspirational and visionary man and a gifted orator in Irish and English who understands our history, our culture and our language.

He has been a leader in sport, serving as senior county hurling manager and in education he understood the concept of every child being unique', she said, describing him above all as 'an absolute gentleman' who now gets to be the 'Mayor of the town and district that he loves'.

He served as a Fianna Fail TD from 2002 to 2007, was elected to the County Council in 2009 and re-elected in 2014.

Cllr Carthy who seconded his nomination for Mayor spoke of Cllr Dempsey's sporting associations, his success in business, his strong advocacy for education and his chairmanship of Wexford County Council. He is a current member of the Central Council of the GAA.

Cllr Tony Walsh of People Before Profit congratulated him and said his decision not to vote for him 'was based on systemic objections rather than personal ones, I can assure you' and he thanked him for making him feel welcome to the Council when he arrived earlier in the term'.

Chief executive Tom Enright said someone of the calibre of Tony Dempsey was very welcome as Mayor.

Wexford People

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