History has been made in Letterkenny this week as the town received its first ever Sinn Féin mayor.
Cllr. Gerry McMonagle took up the chain of office on Monday night after he was proposed unopposed to take over from Fianna Fáil Mayor Tadhg Culbert.
The chamber of the town council offices was filled with friends supporters from Cllr. McMonagle’s native Derry and Letterkenny, where has lived for the best part of 30 years. A community development worker, he was elected to the town council in 2004. A former prisoner in the North during the troubles, he works with the Abhile Arís ex-prisoner centre in Letterkenny.
Among the supporters present were Donegal North East TD Padraig MacLochlainn and Mayor of Donegal Cora Harvey.
The Sinn Fein councillor was nominated by the outgoing mayor and seconded by Jimmy Kavanagh, who was later elected deputy mayor.
He described his election as a huge privilege to become mayor of a town “I have come to love so much”.
“I came here in 1984 and it has given so much to me and my family that I want to repay some of that,” he said. “It is about giving and taking. I have got a lot out of this town and I always try to give as much back as I can.”
He described himself as someone who is not afraid to stand up and be counted.
“I am a Republican through and through and I am delighted that so many Republicans are here tonight.”
He said the night was not just about himself but also about Sinn Féin.
Speaking about his pride in being an elected representative, he said: “It’s always great to represent the people. It’s a magnificent privilege and I hope that I have let nobody down.”
He said he agreed with the outgoing mayor when he said party politics are left at the door of the council and pledged to work with all the councillors. “The door of the mayor is always open,” he said.
He also paid tribute to the work of the Letterkenny Community Development project where he had previously worked.
His priorities he said will be working with the business community, tackling drugs and alcohol abuse in the town, and working more proactively to improve facilities for young people.
“The important thing is that we work in partnership,” he said.
The mayor said he would not be taking the role lightly. He dedicated it to his late father “and all my absent friends who can’t be here tonight”.
The new mayor was congratulated by all the town councillors present.
Cllr. Culbert said the new mayor had presented the town very well since his election in 2004. Cllr. Ciaran Brogan said he knew the new mayor would bring the passion he has brought to his community work. Cllr. Victor Fisher said he knew the mayor would do the town proud. Cllr. Jim Lynch said the election showed consensus politics at work while Cllr. Tom Crossan said he was looking forward to working with the new mayor.
Cllr. Jimm Kavanagh wished the new mayor every success while Cllr. Pascal Blake said everyone knows the impact of his community work and wished him well.