Cllr Rena Donaghey has been elected as Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council.
The Buncrana Fianna Fáil councillor took the chain of office at the council’s annual general meeting on Wednesday afternoon at the Aura Letterkenny leisure centre. The meeting was moved to the leisure centre from County House in Lifford to allow for social distancing.
Cllr Donaghey is serving her sixth term as a county councillor and is only the second person from the town to hold the honour after her predecessor Nicholas Crossan.
Donegal town Sinn Féin councillor Noel Jordan has been elected Leas-Chathaoirleach.
He has returned to the post just three years after he was elected to the position for the first time.
Cllr Donaghey said she was honoured to be representing all the people of Donegal. She said her commitment to each colleague and all the people of the county will be to carry out her responsibilities with the same level of commitment and integrity she has served the people of Inishowen.
Cllr Donaghey addressed the impact that Covid-19 has had on the county.
“It has been a really, really tough few months. My heart goes out to all the people who have lost a loved one in recent months,” she said.
Her first proposal as cathaoirleach was to hold a minute’s silence for those in and from the county who have passed away in recent months.
“Covid-19 is going to be with us for quite some time,” she warned.
She said the impact of the impending recession is going to be very significant and will impact on the council.
“As a council we need to do all that we can to prepare so that we can be ready to face the challenges that are going to come in the next number of years,” she said.
She becomes just the third woman elected Cathaoirleach in Donegal and the first woman Fianna Fáil has elected to the role.
She said she had to admit some embarrassment for the party that it has only elected a woman to the position for the first time in 2020.
Cllr Donaghey said the make-up of the chamber is significantly out of step with the population that it seeks to represent.
She was joined in the chamber by her husband Patrick and children, Anne Marie, Sean and Sarah and some of her grandchildren.
Donegal Fianna Fáil TD Charlie McConalogue and Senator Niall Blaney also attended.
Cllr Jordan committed to using the position as an opportunity to promote the south of the county.
“I used the last term in 2017 to get a number of tourism projects into the south of the county and I would be keen to do that again,” he said.
“It gets you working closer with the executive and it does give you opportunities,” he said.
Outgoing Cathaoirleach Nicholas Crossan said he had been honoured to be elected as first citizen of the historic county.
The independent councillor paid tribute to the late Manus Kelly who passed away shortly after being elected to the council last year.
He said selling Donegal to businesses was an easy sell and stressed work to promote the north west along with Derry and Strabane District Council must continue.
The outgoing cathaoirleach said he was unlucky to get Covid-19 himself but he is on the road to recovery.
He said he had been proud to work as an ambassador for the county
“Every time I pulled on the chain of office, I felt I was pulling on the county jersey,” he said.
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