ALL SMILES ?Newly elected Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Michael Holmes, enjoying a contribution from the floor during his first meeting at Áras an Chontae yesterday (Monday). Also pictured are John Condon, County Secretary and Peter Hynes, Chief Executive. ?Pic: Michael McLaughlin
Gender imbalances and word wobbles
Given that there were only three female county councillors at yesterday’s AGM, which saw the election of the new Cathaoirleach and Leas Cathaoirleach, you might have been forgiven for thinking that women do not get much of a look in.
You’d be wrong.
But we’re not sure feminists would be too happy with some of the comments made at the meeting either.
It started when Cllr Gerry Ginty proposed Cllr Lisa Chambers for Leas Cathaoirleach. Commending her on her contributions to the council since being elected last year, Cllr Ginty also said the council was doing something meaningful about gender balance by this appointment, contrasting the move to the ‘lip service’ indulged in by many other authorities.
It went downhill from there, however.
Cllr Seamus Weir told those gathered about of a trip to New York when incoming Cathaoirleach Michael Holmes brought Weir and a couple of other councillors into a hotel to pass the time. A relative of the Tiernaur man was working there.
“We had worked with her in Asahi, and we all had a crush on her,” said Cllr Weir. “She was one beautiful-looking woman,” he gushed.
“That woman is my wife’s sister,” Cllr Holmes revealed to Cllr Weir.
Cue embarrassment for the Knockmore politician who started profusely apologising to Michael Holmes’ wife Mae in the public gallery. While Weir was trying to extricate himself from his self-dug hole, the charmer in the Cathaoirleach saw a genuine opportunity.
“You’re right Cllr Weir, she is a good looking woman, but I got the best one in the family.”
Meanwhile, when congratulating Ballyheane’s Cllr Lisa Chambers on her election as Leas Cathaoirleach, Cllr Patsy O’Brien told her she is ‘a good woman’.
“I went out there (to Ballyheane) 32 years ago and got a good woman too … I know all the women out there are very good.”
Cllr Tereasa McGuire tried to strike back for the women in the council.
“I’d like to congratulate Lisa not because she is a woman but because she is the best person for the job,” she said. However, she added: “It puts to an end forever the theory about blondes,” saying Lisa Chambers was a clever and intelligent councillor.
The new Cathoirleach’s wife was promised a lot of things. Her husband suggested a transatlantic trip while others suggested jewellery. But not every councillor thought it was going to be a fun-filled year for the Cathaoirleach’s wife.
Describing Mae Holmes as ‘a great woman’, Cllr Blackie Gavin told the Cathaoirleach, “I know Mae will have all the shirts ready for you.”
Cllr Annie May Reape congratulated Cllr Chambers, but observed that there was still only ever one female Cathaoirleach of the local authority: herself, in 2001-02.
Cllr Jarlath Munnelly said it was a poor indictment on the council that Cllr Chambers was the first woman elected to either Cathaoirleach or Leas Cathaoirleach in his eleven years on the council, while a number of other councillors also decried the gender imbalance on the council.
Mayo County Council has 30 members. Currently, 25 of them are men and five are women.
In light of yesterday’s meeting, perhaps it’s not too difficult to see why.