LAST CAMPAIGN Retiring Cllr Henry Kenny (left) pictured canvassing in Cornanool, Castlebar, close to the Kenny family home, in 2014, the last election he fought. He is pictured with Megan, Katie, Liam and Grace Costello and Peter Collins, campaign assistant. Pic: Ken Wright
LAST Thursday afternoon signaled the end of an era in Mayo politics as Councillor Henry Kenny signed off on his final meeting in the Castlebar Municipal District to glowing tributes from his colleagues.
The Fine Gael councillor has decided not to contest in the next local election and will vacate the seat that he has held for 24 years. It also means that there will be no member of the famous Kenny clan from Derrycoosh serving as a county councillor for the first time since 1955.
And with his brother Enda, the former Taoiseach and current Dáil deputy, not standing in the next General Election, the end of an era is nigh.
Their father, Henry, was first elected a TD in Mayo from 1954 until his death in 1975. Enda Kenny has served as a TD since 1975.
And since Henry Kenny Senior was elected to Mayo County Council in 1955, a member of the family has been a Mayo county councillor for the Castlebar area every year since – Henry Senior until 1975, Enda from 1975 until he was appointed a Minister in 1994 and Henry was co-opted in his stead in February 1995, successfully being elected at four local elections since.
Cllr Al McDonnell led the tributes during the meeting by thanking Cllr Kenny for his 24 years of service to Mayo.
“His contribution has been immense,” he said. “I think I speak for a lot of his friends here, it was a great pleasure to work with him. The new council will be worse without him. I wish him the very best in his retirement – if anyone deserves it, he does.”
Fellow Fine Gael councillor Cyril Burke expressed his disappointment to not have Cllr Kenny on the polling card with him this time around.
“It was a pleasure to have him as a party colleague, we worked very well together,” he said. “I know he made a big contribution to the Castlebar area during that 24-year period and it’s sad not to have him on the ticket with me. Some of us might be retiring with him, but at least he got the chance to decide!”
Cllr Martin McLoughlin, a neighbour of the Kenny family in Derrycoosh, said he was ‘privileged’ to have grown up beside the Kenny family and labelled him an ‘exceptional public representative’, but ensured his neighbour that the people of Derrycoosh are in safe hands politically.
Cllr Joe McHale labelled Cllr Kenny a ‘gentleman’ and commended him on the work he did for the Michael Davitt Museum in Straide, while Cllr Michael Kilcoyne praised him for his ability to ‘sum up a situation in only a few words’.
Director of Services, John Condon, Senior Executive Engineer, Ann Sweeney and Head of District, Marie Crowley all wished Cllr Kenny well in his retirement.
Cllr Kenny thanked his colleagues and said it was an honour to serve the people of Castlebar for so long.
He also wished his colleagues the very best of luck in the upcoming elections.
“When I thought today was my last meeting I felt a bit nostalgic,” he said. “This seat goes back 64 years. My Dad had it for 20 [years], my brother 20 [years] and I had it for 24 [years]. That was a priviledge and an honour given to us by the people and I would like to publicly thank them for that.
“I’m a long time in politics; the first time I went on an election campaign was back in 1965 in the old South Mayo constituency. I drove a brand new car out of Cathal Duffy’s Garage without a licence. It had no number plates, and certainly no insurance or tax.
“But I want to say to my colleagues, the only vote you’re certain of is your own. It’s a lottery and I have gone through many of them, between the Seanad, General Elections and local elections, for a long, long time.
“But I do wish ye all, regardless of your political affiliation, the best of luck in the election.”