Trib­utes as Cllr Kelly re­tires from coun­cil

Wexford People - - NEWS - By MARIA PEP­PER

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.

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