His time as Cathaoirleach of Longford County Council may be short-lived but Cllr Gerard Farrell certainly won’t be found wanting when it comes to fulfilling his duties.
As Leas Cathaoirleach, Cllr Farrell has been filling in as Cathaoirleach since his predecessor Micheál Carrigy was elected to the Senate in early April.
But it was at last week’s meeting of Longford County Council that he was officially appointed to the role.
And Cllr Farrell is the third generation of his family to wear the chain. His grandfather served as Cathaoirleach from 1964 to 1967, while his father wore the chain from 1990 to 1991 and from 2001 to 2002.
“We have a cut out from the Longford Leader in the pub (Adie’s Bar, Lanesboro) from when my father got elected in 1990,” Cllr Farrell explained.
“He wasn’t expecting to get it but one of the Fianna Fáil lads changed his mind and voted for him and he ended up in the chair.”
It’s a great honour, Gerard explained, to be following in the footsteps of two former councillors in the family and, while he won’t hold the chair for a year, he’s certainly coming in at a crucial time for Longford County Council, which is facing a potential loss of €9m in income this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There were a few things decided at the council meeting (last week). There will be some big shortfalls in the council,” he explained.
“And those are projected figures so that’ll go up or down. But it’s important to think positive and to push on. Our roads crew are back this week and the library project is back on now in Edgeworthstown.
“My focus is on supporting the council in continuing those projects and projects such as the Greenway and plans to develop that and the Mid Shannon Wilderness park.
“We just need to push on with those. We’ve been very successful in applying for and getting money and those grants will become more and more important now.”
A support for local businesses through this difficult time of Covid-19 is also to the fore of Cllr Farrell’s mind as the county slowly begins to reopen.
“Hopefully whatever government is formed will focus on the regeneration of communities. We need to support our small businesses and communities now more than ever,” he said.
There are also some “crucial decisions” to be made at this difficult time, he added, such as the decision made last week to apply to adjust the usul €5m overdraft to €20m.
“I totally agree with the decision to go for an adjustment to the overdraft,” he said.
“It might not all be used but it’s the second half of the year when the money starts going out. It was a good idea and I have to commend John McKeon on all the work he’s doing.”
There will be plenty more decisions to be made in the coming months, while Cllr Farrell finishes out the year as Cathaoirleach, and he plans to put everything he can into the role between now and the annual meeting, when the next Cathaoirleach will be elected.
“I’ve been unofficially working as Cathaoirleach for the last couple of months,” he said, adding that he hopes he can take up the role again in the future.
“I see this as a sort of apprenticeship, so I’ll be used to it if I get it again in the future.
“My father held the chair in two decades, so the goal is to follow in his footsteps and emulate that.”