Tributes as Cllr Kelly retires from council
FELLOW councillors and officials rose to their feet in the chamber at Wexford County Council headquarters in Carricklawn and applauded loudly after tributes were paid to Sinn Fein public representative Anthony Kelly who announced his retirement from the local authority.
Cllr Kelly has bowed out after 18 years as a Wexford councillor and his seat is to be filled by 31-year-old primary school teacher Thomas Forde whose late father Daithí was a stalwart in Sinn Fein, serving as an organiser for the Leinster area.
Cllr Kelly suffered a series of strokes in early 2016 and recovered to return to council duties within six months. While still very sick, he insisted on endorsing his friend and colleague Cllr Johnny Mythen in his General Election bid that year.
Outlining the reason for his decision to retire, he said: ‘My health is reasonably OK at the moment but the work is getting busier and I don’t want to get sick again’.
‘There are only three councillors from Wexford town on the District Council now, compared to 12 when it was the Borough Council and the work has quadrupled’, he said. While he is resigning his council seat, he is not forsaking politics altogether and will continue to work with the Sinn Fein party. ‘I’ll be out canvassing for Johnny Mythen in the next General Election’, he promised. Anthony said his final meeting was a very emotional occasion for him and it was a pleasant surprise to get a standing ovation.
‘I have mixed emotions about retiring. I’m happy and I’m sad. I made some great friends on the council, from all sides and all parties. I would like to thank the staff who were always very helpful and courteous to me, especially the housing staff ’.
Council chief executive Tom Enright joined with councillors in paying tribute to him at his final meeting, commending him on his service to the people of the town and to the council over almost two decades.
Looking back on his career, Cllr Kelly said he is proud of his and his party’s campaign for the improvement of services in Wexford General Hospital, including the Accident and Emergency Department which underwent a multi-million euro refurbishment; and also his representations over the years on behalf of people in need of social housing.
Cllr Kelly was first elected to Wexford Borough Council in 1999, regaining a seat previously held by his late brother Phil. He was re-elected in 2004 and his running mate on this occasion was Daithí Forde, father of newly co-opted Cllr Thomas Forde, who narrowly missed out on taking a second seat. Cllr Kelly retained his Borough seat in the local elections of 2009, having built up a reputation as an effective local representative.
He contested the General Election in 2011 but was unsuccessful after Independent candidate Mick Wallace made a late entry into the race. Giving up on his national ambitions, he took a seat on Wexford County Council in 2014, coming in second and just missing out on topping the poll in the Wexford District.
Sinn Fein described him as a ‘trail blazer’ for the party’s political rise in Wexford and ‘a steadfast republican socialist who has inspired several generations of young republican activists’.
‘His shoes will be very hard to fill’, said a party spokesperson, ‘but Cllr Forde, a life-long political activist and founder of Republican Youth in County Wexford, will continue the great work begun by people like Anthony Kelly’.
Anthony wished Cllr Forde well in his new role. ‘I wish him the very best. He’s a good lad. I have a lot of faith in him. He will be a very effective councillor. I knew his father very well.’
Anthony Kelly has served as a Wexford councillor for 18 years.