Buncrana Councillor Rena Donaghey has been officially elected as Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council for the coming year.
The Fianna Fáil councillor took over the role from Independent Cllr Nicholas Crossan at the council’s AGM today.
Cllr Donaghey is the third woman to be elected as Donegal’s first citizen in the council’s 121 year history. She is the first female Fianna Fáil member to fill the role in the county.
Having been first elected in 1999, Cllr Donaghey said it was a “humbling moment” to become Cathaoirleach today.
Cllr Donaghey led her first address to the council by holding a minute’s silence in memory of the people in Donegal who passed away from Covid-19.
Cllr Donaghey praised the heroic efforts of all workers who worked during the pandemic and acknowledged Donegal’s resilience as it faces challenging times ahead.
Sinn Fein Cllr Noel Jordan, of Mountcharles, has been appointed at the Leas Cathaoirleach. He takes over the role from Independent Cllr Niamh Kennedy.
The Council AGM took place in exceptional circumstances in the Aura Leisure Centre in Letterkenny to facilitate social distancing. It is the first time that all elected members have met since January.
Cllr Donaghey was formally proposed by Fianna Fáil colleague Ciaran Brogan.
It was a proud day for the Inishowen representative, who has committed to continue with her work advocating education, tourism and strengthening Donegal’s economic offerings.
“My commitment to each colleague and to the people of Donegal for the next 12 months is to carry out my role with the same level of energy, determination, integrity and compassion that I hope I have brought Inishowen over the past 26 years,” Cllr Donaghey said.
Cllr Donaghey said she is looking forward to working closely with Chief Executive Seamus Neely and the council as they focus on helping Donegal recover from the impact of Covid-19.
Over the next year, Cllr Donaghey plans to place a particular focus on fastracking the rollout of broadband in rural areas of Donegal.
“I intend, with the support of my colleagues and this local authority, to lobby tirelessly to ensure the incoming government deliver high speed broadband for rural Ireland. Broadband is not a luxury, but a necessity,” Cllr Donaghey said.
Cllr Donaghey also plans to work to reignite the hospitality and tourism sector badly affected by Covid-19.
“I want to see this council putting in a strong campaign for staycation to put money back into our indigenous amenities and thus helping job creation,” she said.
Cllr Donaghey’s election as Chair had a special significance today, which is also her 36th wedding anniversary to her husband Patrick.
Cllr Donaghey was joined by Patrick, three of their children, and three grandchildren to celebrate the honour of becoming chair today.
In her speech, Cllr Donaghey paid tribute to the family of the late Cllr Manus Kelly, who died in a Donegal Rally tragedy a year ago this month. Cllr Donaghey said Manus’ father, Cllr Donal Kelly, Manus’ siblings, parents, wife Bernie and children are all in the thoughts and prayers of the council.
“Manus made an amazing contribution to sporting life her in Donegal and was set to make a significant contribution to the civic and political life to the county also. He was taken all too young.”
Cllr Donaghey also expressed her condolences to Cllr Martin Farren on the sad passing of his wife Eileen in April.
Cllr Donaghey’s speech concluded on a positive note, with an optimistic outlook for the county’s future.
“There is a great spirit here in Donegal and no shortage of resilience. We’ve faced many difficulties and challenges over the years but we’ve never lost these special traits and values that see us overcome them and make this a very special place to call home.”