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Inaugural speech of new Cathaoirleach Cllr Gerry McMonagle


Cllr Gerry McMonagle

Newly elected Cathaoirleach Cllr Gerry McMonagle


First of all, I want to thank my proposer Cllr Mary Therese and seconder Cllr Jack Murray.  I would also like to congratulate Cllr Noel Jordan on being elected as my Deputy. I have no doubt we will work as a team promoting Donegal over the next twelve months.


I'd also like to thank the Sinn Féin party for putting my name forward for the position and also thank you, my fellow members of Donegal County Council for your endorsement of me as Mayor and Noel as Deputy Mayor. 


Today is a huge honour for me for and my family. Donegal is a county I've called home for the last 35 years. It is a county I have come to love and a place I could never imagine leaving.


I fully understand the responsibility that comes with this chain of office and I am committed to fulfilling that responsibility completely. I intend to do everything I can to ensure that I do the members and staff of Donegal County Council proud. More importantly I want to deliver for the people of this county and work for the betterment of the county which we all love. 


I want to acknowledge that I could not have taken on this role without the support of my wife Zena and all my family. You have been by my side since I first held elected office as a Letterkenny Town Councillor in 2004, right through to my election to the county council in 2014, to today. I know that you will continue to provide that invaluable support throughout this incoming year and I want to publicly thank you for everything you have done for me.


Undoubtedly, we in Donegal face many challenges in the year ahead. But there will also be a bounty of riches and opportunities that must be developed in tandem with emerging plans for the development of the North West Region as a whole.


 It is vitally important that we continue to work with our near neighbours in Derry Strabane Council and Omagh and Fermanagh Council and develop strong cross border relationships with both councils to help lessen any negative impact of a Hard Brexit. I look forward to working with my counterparts in Derry/Strabane and Omagh/ Fermanagh in the year ahead.


At this point, I'd like to praise both the CEO of Derry City & Strabane District Council, John Kelpie, and our own CEO Seamus Neely for the fantastic work they've done in promotion of the northwest as a city region and for bringing our local authorities closer than ever before so that we are best placed to deal with the uncertainty of Brexit.


I believe that the office of Mayor can be utilised to promote all that is good in Donegal. This county has the most welcoming people in Ireland. We have the best beaches in Ireland. We have an array of outstanding historical sites such as Grianan of Aileach, Glenveigh National Park, Fanad Lighthouse, Doagh Castle and the iconic Mount Errigal and the cliffs of Sliabh Liag. 


We have a rich abundance of culture in our heritage, language and our traditional music. It this which I think of when I think of Donegal. It is this which is our unique selling point when promoting Donegal around the world.


With the renowned talent of Dinny McLaughlin, Altan, Clannad, Mairead Ni Mhoniagh and many others  from Donegal, then what better place to establish a college of excellence in Irish traditional music than in this county.


The arts generate an estimated €782m per annum for the Irish economy.

26,519 jobs

Accounts for about 0.5% of our total GDP

The Art’s are ahead of our print media and the dairy industry in terms of its economic contribution. 


A College of Excellence in Traditional Music with recognised qualifications could transform the Gaeltacht area of West Donegal. It could if successful attract people from all over the world to learn our traditional music and culture. I firmly believe with the right people at the helm this could be a transformation for our Donegal Gaeltacht and our heritage and culture.


That is why I would like to make it a priority of this council for the coming year to investigate the possibility of making this happen and I hope I can get the support of the members and executive to make this a reality. 


The council can do great work and is doing great work in raising awareness around the importance of mental health and wellbeing and developing the resilience of our young people in dealing the challenges of modern life.


 As Mayor, I want to convey to the groups in the county who also engage in this vital work, my willingness to work with them and use all options open to me to assist them in any way possible. 


The lack of rural development is also leading to the further isolation of our older people. Whilst we live in a world that is more connected like never before, yet some of our communities are experiencing levels of isolation that previous generations would struggle to comprehend. 


The decline of our rural areas, the slow rollout of broadband, the lack of an integrated public transport system, the closure of our post office banks and garda stations is something which I will fight against and work to highlight in the year ahead.


If Donegal is to develop equally then broadband must be rolled out to all rural areas, not just our urban hubs. Telecommunications companies must not be just about profit but about the connectivity of people and businesses in all parts of Donegal.


It is important that we campaign for much needed investment  to our roads infrastructure across all areas of the County if Donegal is to realise its full potential.


 Letterkenny as the premier town of the County is experiencing massive gridlock on a daily basis. I promise to work hard with all the other councillors on this council to ensure that Letterkenny as the Hub of Donegal gets the Roads infrastructure needed to help it develop into a City that we can all benefit from and be proud of.


 We will in the coming weeks lead a delegation to the Minister of Transport and Roads to get the necessary funding to progress the much awaited Bonagee Link and Leck Road to ensure the balanced development not just of Letterkenny but the whole County.


 The A/N2, N4 and A6 are also major links that need to be advanced and again I will use the Office of Mayor to help progress these much needed pieces of infrastructure to connect us to the rest of the Country.


Connectivity is everything if we are to develop into the future. This also means connecting with our people and to help this I will be proposing that this council executive connects with every corner of the County.


Over the next year I hope to hold Public Town Hall type meetings within every Municipal District to listen to the people and to hear their suggestions on how we should develop our county into the future.


We have a great entrepreneurial spirit in this County with our proven leaders in many fields including Business, Science, Writers, Artists and Sporting Heroes. We must tap into this rich vein if we are to prosper further.


Finally I would just like to offer my fullest co-operation to you the members and the executive. I want to work in partnership with you all over the next twelve months to help promote and grow all that is good in this County. At a time of uncertainty it is more important than ever that we all pull on the Donegal Jersey let us all pull together and work for the people of Donegal and together we will build a prosperous and vibrant Donegal. Go raibh maith agat.



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