History was made last night at the inaugural meeting of the Municipal District of Bray council meeting when Sinn Féin councillor John Brady became its first cathaoirleach and the first Sinn Féin cathaoirleach of a local authority in Bray or Wicklow. Cllr Brady was nominated by his colleague Cllr Oliver O'Brien and was seconded by Cllr Brendan Thornhill.
Councillor Brady defeated Fianna Fail councillor Pat Vance 6-2 after securing the support of other independent councillors Fox and Behan along with Green Party councillor Steve Matthews.
Speaking at the council AGM councillor Brady said "It is with great personal pride that I take on this role which is historic for a number of reasons. Firstly because it’s the first time this position has been filled under the reconfiguration of local government by Phil Hogan and secondly it’s the first time a member of Sinn Féin has held the chair position of any council here in Bray."
"I want to be a champion of equality, an advocate for strong community and bearer of change.If, in twelve months’ time, I can look back on my term, if I can honestly say that I have taken the Cathaoirleach role into the homes, communities and work places of those whom this office represents, then I will be a proud republican activist."
Cllr Brady outlined his priorities for the coming year which include tackling the housing crisis, unemployment, suicide awareness, completion of the river Dargle Flood Protection Scheme and the restoration of the Peoples Park, a Full Time Fire Service for Bray and the development of the Florentine centre.
In his closing comments the new cathaoirleach outlined a number of new initiatives including the creation of the Cathaoirleachs community fund which will see up to 50% of his allowance as chairperson going directly back to community groups, clubs and organisations. A series of public meetings are also to be organised around Bray, Enniskerry, Kilmacanouge to ensure the work done on the new Municipal District Council of Bray is in line with the views of the citizens it represents and that it remains fully accountable to them and no other vested interests.
Below is the full text of the Cathaoirleachs speech.
It is a magnificent honour to be nominated and elected as the Cathaoirleach of the Municipal District of Bray, which includes Kilmacanouge and Enniskerry.
In 2004 I became the first republican to sit here in the town hall since the murder of Seamus Costello in 1977. Now 10 years after me being first being elected by the people of Bray I have been given the honour of sitting here in this chair as the first Cathaoirleach of the Municipal District of Bray.
I want to thank my Colleague Cllr Oliver O’Brien for proposing me and Cllr Brendan Thornhill for seconding me. I also want to thank my family, Gayle, Meghan, Saoirse, Siobhraidh, Oisin and Croía for their continued support and for putting up with me. I also want to thank my supporters and the citizens of Bray, Enniskerry and Kilmac for giving me a continued mandate to represent them. I also want to thank my colleague Rossa Murray who for the last 5 years sat along side me on Bray Town Council and made my life so much easier.
If, in twelve months’ time, I can look back on my term, if I can honestly say that I have taken the Cathaoirleach role into the homes, communities and work places of those whom this office represents, then I will be a proud republican activist.
I want to be a champion of equality, an advocate for strong community and bearer of change.
The local and European elections brought about significant political change. After six years of social and economic crisis and seven harsh austerity budgets people have had enough.
Sinn Féin was returned to Wicklow County council with 6 representatives with 2 of those coming from here, the Municipal of Bray. We are now the largest political party on the council here in Bray. With our new political strength there also comes a huge responsibility.
Those of us elected to this Council, from all parties, have a responsibility to work together to make life better for the people we represent.
I look forward to working constructively and positively with all councillors elected to deliver for the people of Bray, Enniskerry and Kilmacanouge.
I want to be a Cathaoirleach for all of the people of this district. But in particular I want to be a voice for those who have been left out or left behind. I want to be a campaigning Cathaoirleach – campaigning for change, for inclusion, for equality.
My priorities for the year will be;
- To highlight and find solutions for the ongoing housing and homeless crisis in the area and across the State.
- Suicide awareness
- To promote practical solutions to the unemployment crisis and help build Bray as a positive retail destination
- A full time fire service for Bray
- Resumption and completion of work on the Dargle River Flood Protection scheme and the restoration of the People Park
- To ensure a programme is implemented so the millions in unspent Bray Town Council Development monies are spent on projects in the locality.
HOUSING & HOMELESSNESS
We are in the midst of the worst housing crisis in modern history. Almost 4,200 households across Wicklow are on the waiting list, nearly 1,200 in the northern part of the County. A growing number of families are sleeping tonight in local hotels/hostels because they cannot afford the rent in private accommodation and the council is unable to house them and indeed we have people sleeping on the streets here in Bray.
Since 2008 Government funding for social housing has been cut by 90%.
The solution to the housing crisis is very simple – we need to build more social houses.
As Cathaoirleach I pledge to use my office to highlight this crisis. To put a human face on the suffering of thousands of families who do not have a home of their own.
I also pledge to promote meaningful solutions to this crisis.
Local government must be able to meet peoples housing need. We need to have the money to build and buy more social houses.
There is a housing crisis and we as a council must act to ensure that changes are made to allow us to work towards dealing with the crisis.
We have unfortunately lost many of our family members, friends, and community to suicide. Many of those where young bright people when thought they had no alternative. I want to use my position over the coming year to lift the taboo on this issue, speak about it and work with the many excellent groups and organisations out there dealing with the issue, I believe this council can play a proactive role on this issue.
In Bray there are 4,944 people unemployed. We need to work together to get Bray working again. During my year as Cathaoirleach I will engage with youth organizations, trade unions, business groups, employers and young people themselves to debate and promote practical solutions that will give people hope and get people working. I will work to ensure that Bray becomes a major retail destination again and that the Florentine development is central to that and that we reach our tourist potential.
Full Time Fire Service
For many years I like many people including Margret Cahill have called for the provision of a full time fire service in the town. Our history unfortunately shows clearly that we need one, we have a station purposely built to house one and unfortunately the funding hasn’t followed from central government. I intend on using my year in office in a positive way to advance to provision of a full time fire service in Bray.
I look forward to the months ahead in my new role, not just as a Sinn Féin Cathaoirleach but one for all of the people living in Bray, Enniskerry and Kilmacanouge. I will endeavour to be fair as the Chairperson of Council meetings and provide everyone with equal time and opportunity, regardless of political orientation.
I want to state that we are very lucky to have a flexible, professional, innovative and committed team and workforce in the Municipal District council. We need to get to grips with all our new roles and functions as quickly as possible and I will ensure that training for councillors will be provided if required. I also intend on developing a strong working relationship with Comhairle na nÓg and ensuring they can play a constructive role within this council.
I’m genuinely looking forward to working closely with the manager, other senior officials and their team in the coming year.
While I as one individual don’t have the solutions to tackle every problem we may encounter, together as elected representatives, staff and residents we have the knowledge and ability to make great progress in the coming year.
As we approach the 100 anniversary of the 1916 Rising I believe we need to start our plans to remember, learn and commemorate the birth of our Republic, I will bring forward plans for that in the near future, in the meantime we as a council should endeavour to ‘Cherish all the children equally’ as is stated in our proclamation of Independence. Tackling inequality and ensuring every single person has the opportunity and the means to live a full and happy life is the greatest challenge facing the leadership of our Municipal District.
I am resolved to be relentlessly positive about our community and to work hard with everyone to make our county and our district a place for everyone. I want to be ensure equality and community thrive in our area, that means that no matter if your if your black or white, Gay lesbian or straight, able-bodied or have a disability, a member of the travelling community or from the settled community, that you will be treated with respect and equality and that you can be proud to be a part of our community.
Over the coming months I plan on setting up the Cathaoirleach community fund. With this I plan on distributing up to 50% of my allowances as Chairperson back into the community. I as Cathaoirleach also plan on organising a number of public meetings in several locations across Bray, Enniskerry and Kilmacanouge to ensure the work done here on the council is in line with the views of the citizens we represent and that we remain fully accountable to them and no other vested interests. I will bring forward details of both initiatives in the near future.
I am up for the challenge over the next 12 months and look forward to working with all of you to realize that vision.
Go raibh mhaith agaibh.