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Burke takes Council hot seat

New Mayo County Council Cathaoirleach Cllr Cyril Burke is pictured with, from left: Peter Hynes, County Manager; Michelle Mulherin, TD and his brother, Senator Paddy Burke, leader of the Seanad.
New Mayo County Council Cathaoirleach Cllr Cyril Burke is pictured with, from left: Peter Hynes, County Manager; Michelle Mulherin, TD and his brother, Senator Paddy Burke, leader of the Seanad.?Pic: Tom Campbell

Mayo’s first citizen continues fine family tradition

Edwin McGreal


His grandfather Patrick Burke was first elected to Mayo County Council in 1934 and served until 1945. His father Pake served in the chamber from 1967 to 1974 and his older brother Paddy was a member of the council from 1979 until 2003 at which stage Cyril Burke himself entered the council chamber, being co-opted after his brother had to vacate the chamber with the abolition of the dual mandate.
It’s an incredible record of 51 years service to Mayo County Council by three generations of the Burke family from Ballyglass but even more remarkable is the fact that when Cyril Burke was elected to the office of Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council yesterday (Monday) at a stormy meeting in Castlebar, he became the first member of his family to be the county’s first citizen.
And his family, friends and supporters were out in force to witness the historic occasion. It wasn’t straightforward either, the Corrib gas protest delaying the meeting and the heckling of Cllr Burke in his opening address was met with a mixture of anger and bemusement from some of his supporters.
But the protesters left shortly after that and Cllr Burke went on to make an outstanding opening address. It’s of little surprise that he has a keen knowledge of local political history and he relayed a lot of that to the meeting which struck a chord with all present, speaking of contemporaries of his grandfather’s and of his father’s time. Indeed some councillors, such as Cllr Eddie Staunton and Cllr Gerry Ginty were mentioned for having straddled both his father’s era and the current one.
Cllr Burke, a native of Gradogue, Ballyglass, paid tribute to his wife Ann, children Patrick, Leanne and Stephen, his brothers Tom, Paddy, Seamus, Michael and Noel and sister Majella and particular thanks to his mother, Marie, who was present in the chamber. He also paid tribute to all his friends in the chamber, quoting WB Yeats.
“‘Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends’ and today, thank God, most of them are here,” he said.
Cllr Burke, a Castlebar-based businessman said that the focus of his year would centre around the creation of a Mayo Economic Forum. He said a model in Louth was one Mayo should follow.
“I have identified a number of priority areas and initiatives in consultation with our County Manager Peter Hynes. The Louth Economic Forum has proved a successful framework under which to operate and bring together the business sector, local authority management and the state agencies and developing economic activity in the county and it is a one-stop shop for investment to the county. I feel it should not be a talking shop but deliver real action backed up by real objectives,” he told the meeting.
He also identified four areas for the Forum to focus on.
“The first is foreign, direct investment. We need to be realistic and know we can’t compete for every area of investment and should focus on where we are strong. I believe the second area is the harnessing of the 3.5 million people of the Mayo diaspora. We’ve established this with mayo.ie [the council’s website] but I feel more can be done. The year 2013 is the year of the Gathering and I think that is a great way to focus the diaspora. I think an Irish Diaspora Hall of Fame in Mayo would be a success and while it would require investment, it is something we should explore.
“The third area is the harnessing of renewable energy because we are very well positioned here for that. The final area is how we position ourselves for the arrival of the trans-Atlantic fibreoptic cable. It is going from New York to Belmullet and I think it will make Mayo an attractive destination for companies who rely on these networks. Working together we can achieve something great,” he concluded.
Tributes to Cllr Burke were led by his neighbour Cllr Al McDonnell while Cllr Patsy O’Brien was elected as Leas-Cathaoirleach.
County Manager Peter Hynes welcomed the new Cathaoirleach and said that it was remarkable that the Castlebar Electoral Area was now home to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the leader of the Seanád, Paddy Burke and the Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Paddy’s younger brother Cyril.
Glowing tributes were paid to the outgoing Cathoirleach, Cllr Austin Francis O’Malley, and to Leas Cathaoirleach, Cllr Eugene Lavin.

email edwinmcgreal@mayonews.ie with your comments