The vacant seat, once occupied by former County Councillor Alan Mitchell (FG), was clearly visible at the chamber as his colleagues paid tribute to his years sitting among them.
Only last month, Cllr Mitchell was putting forward proposals to extend the town’s boundaries, but just two weeks ago the news emerged that the former town and county councillor had been appointed a judge of the District Court.
As a result, Mr Mitchell was obliged to resign from all his local authority and public committee positions, including that of chairman of County Longford Vocational Education Committee (VEC) last week.
While tributes were paid to Mr Mitchell by his former colleagues before the meeting kicked off, there was no indication as to the possible candidates that would be vying for his vacant seats.
County Mayor and party colleague, Cllr Frank Kilbride initiated the tributes. “I wish Alan the best of luck in his new job,” he stated, adding that the former public representative was “one of the finest councillors Longford ever produced”.
Cllr Paddy Belton (FG) then added his congratulations on behalf of the Fine Gael Party. “I would like to congratulate Alan Mitchell on his appointment as a judge of the district court,” he said. “He will be a big loss to our party and indeed to the whole chamber. Alan Mitchell never got too hot too quick – unlike some of the rest of us – he never got too hot under the collar and he was always there to give advice and was a gentleman. His appointment as judge is a great achievement for him and a great achievement for Longford.”
“I would like to share my congratulations to Alan,” Cllr Denis Glennon (FF) added. “I was elected to the urban council with Alan in 1994 and he is one of the most honourable men and with enormous ability. He will be a very fair and able judge.”
A number of councillors went on to speak about Mr Mitchell’s courage and ability during his time in the local political arena.
“Alan always knew what he was talking about and remained level headed and cool; that was something that I admired greatly in him,” Cllr PJ Reilly (FF) added, while Cllr Padraig Loughrey said, “He was a man of exceptional ability and will be a great loss to this chamber”.
“I knew Alan Mitchell was destined for the top,” Cllr Paul Connell (Ind) added. “We didn’t know which path he was going to take while heading to the top, but we know now and I wish him and his wife Sorcha all the very best.”
Cllr Peggy Nolan (FG) then pointed to Mr Mitchell’s wisdom. “Alan was full of wisdom and offered so much support to me over the years,” she smiled. “His integrity and sense of belief in this county was next to none and his appreciation for music and fun was superb. He is a gentleman and I want to thank him most sincerely for all his wisdom and support.”
All members paid tribute to Mr Mitchell and the contest for his two vacant seats will begin in earnest this week as the 14 day period of resignation draws to a close.