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Councillors pay tribute to Neill O’Neill


REPRESENTING MAYO The late Neill O’Neill was part of a delegation which represented the Northern and Western Regional Assembly counties in Brussels last July. The delegation travelled to a ceremony which announced the region as a European Entrepreneurial Region for 2018. Neill is pictured with John Magee of Mayo County Council, and Stephanie Colombani of Westport Chamber of Commerce.

Edwin McGreal

Mayo county councillors have paid tribute to the late Neill O’Neill, the Managing Editor of The Mayo News who died suddenly earlier this month.
Cllr Brendan Mulroy (FF), a personal friend of Mr O’Neill, led the tributes.
“He was a guy who left a positive impression on anyone he met. The people of Westport and Mayo will deeply miss him. I spent the previous night with him watching the Ireland (v Wales World Cup Qualifier) game. Plans were afoot to go to Russia (venue for the World Cup in 2018). Regardless of whether Ireland qualified, Neill was going to Russia!
“He had great integrity and his interest in people was phenomenal. I’d like to pay tribute to the staff of The Mayo News. They did a very difficult job bringing out a paper the following Monday. They did it the same way Neill would have done it, they did it professionally,” said Cllr Mulroy.
Cllr Mulroy said Mr O’Neill made plenty of ‘discreet’ approaches to him to look after someone in need and never sought thanks for doing so.
He also said Mr O’Neill was ‘destined’ for a career in politics in the future, either at council or national level. Cllr Tereasa McGuire (FG) agreed that Mr O’Neill would ‘have gone places in politics’ and joked that Cllr Mulroy ‘might not be happy with the steps that would have to be taken’ for that to happen – implying Cllr Mulroy’s political career might have perished as a result!
She said Neill O’Neill was ‘a person’s person’ and was ‘kind to people and looked out for people’. She said that, with Seán Staunton and Martin Curry, The Mayo News had suffered some ‘great losses’ in recent years and that qualities present in many Mayo News people of ‘decency’ and of being ‘good community people’ were present in Neill.
She said he also had the ‘rare gift’ of letting you know exactly where you stood with him without ever insulting you.
Cllr Michael Holmes said Neill O’Neill was an ‘out and out gentleman’. He explained that Neill was Best Man at his daughter’s wedding. He added that at West Mayo Municipal District meetings, which Mr O’Neill covered regularly for The Mayo News, he was ‘the eighth councillor’.
“He lived the meetings. His heart was in Westport and West Mayo. He was 36 years of age but he could be 56 or 16. He was way beyond his years at times but he could wind back the clock too and be very young,” said Cllr Holmes.
Cllr Michael Kilcoyne chaired the Enterprise and Economic Strategic Policy Committee of Mayo County Council, of which Neill O’Neill was a member. He said it is thanks to Mr O’Neill that the Leeson Enterprise Centre in Westport is up and running.
Cllr Gerry Coyle said Neill O’Neill ‘did not come looking for bad news’ but was ‘always sympathetic when he had to report it and delighted to report good news’.
Cllr Annie May Reape said Mr O’Neill was ‘one of the nicest young fellas I ever met’. Cllr Neil Cruise recalled himself and Neill O’Neill colliding in a charity soccer game and, given the size difference, it was no surprise that Neill O’Neill hit the deck.
“But he was like a rubber ball, he hopped straight back up!” recalled Cllr Cruise.
Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Richard Finn described Mr O’Neill as ‘an icon of the press’ and extended the sympathy of the council to Neill’s partner Emma and his family.

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