Shock as councillor says 'good riddance' to retiring senior official

Clive Nesbitt

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Clive Nesbitt

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clive@alphanewspapers.co.uk

IN a shock statement at Monday's meeting of Offaly County Council, Cllr Dervill Dolan said he was glad senior council official Sean Murray was retiring.

After five councillors had paid tribute to the director of services, Cllr Dolan was a lone voice in not wishing Mr Murray well as a long career in the private and public sectors came to an end.

The Independent member for the Tullamore Electoral Area said Mr Murray was somebody he did not work well with on the council and he did not see eye to eye with him.

Cllr Dolan, who is not seeking re-election in the council elections on May 24 bluntly told Mr Murray: “I didn't agree with the way you did your job. I didn't agree with the way you dealt with councillors and indeed the public at times.”

While he did not wish to fall out with anyone at this point, and he knew people would not agree with his opinion, the councillor added: “I actually think you're good riddance out of Offaly.”

The Cathaoirleach of the council, Cllr Danny Owens, intervened and told Cllr Dolan what he was saying was “inappropriate”.

Cllr Dolan repeated that he was stating his “opinion” and Cllr Owens replied: “You should keep that opinion to yourself.”

He asked the councillor to apologise and Cllr Dolan said he would not.

The chief executive of the council, Anna Marie Delaney, then praised her retiring colleague, describing him as a man who would never hold a grudge. He was always very knowledgeable and gave good advice, even if sometimes it wasn't taken. “He was very erudite and cogent and always well versed,” said Ms Delaney.

Acknowledging that Mr Murray was prone to use words of Latin and Greek occasionally when addressing the chamber, the chief executive added: “We'll miss the very learned and articulate views he stressed.”

Bringing the tributes to a close, Cllr Owens said he would join the sentiments just expressed and apologised for Cllr Dolan's remarks.

He gave the Independent councillor another opportunity to apologise and condemned the comment made earlier: “It was absolutely abhorrent that such a remark would be made.”

Cllr Dolan said he would not apologise for his honest opinion because he didn't “need to”.

Responding to the discussion, Mr Murray opened his remarks in Irish and thanked the councillors and his colleagues for the 15 years he had spent in Offaly.

He said it had been “sometimes robust” but stressed that Offaly was extremely well served by both teams, councillors and executive.

Having worked in many local authorities, Mr Murray, a resident of Celbridge, Co Kildare, observed of the Offaly elected members: “Unusually you generally leave politics outside the door.”

He also noted that at executive and staff level Offaly County Council was unusual in being a “boundaryless” organisation.

Mr Murray singled out one public representative for special mention, the “late great” Cllr Tom Feighery, chair of the council when he arrived in Offaly. “Tom, for me, represented the epitome of a gentleman,” he said.

Earlier, opening the floor for tributes on what was Mr Murray's last formal meeting with the full council, Cllr Owens outlined the man's career and recalled he had been awarded a bachelor in engineering in University College Galway in 1977.

He then worked in many councils, the private sector and Irish Water, and returned to senior positions in Offaly, including a period as acting county manager.

Cllr Owens said Mr Murray had “delivered” the new county library and a housing project in Edenderry and was involved in setting up the National Waste Collection Permits Office which is based in Tullamore.

“He can have strong views. A lot of times he's right,” remarked the Cathaoirleach, adding: “We all think we're right all the time but sometimes we're not”. “Sean is a big loss to the county, like him or... I won't say hate him... like him or otherwise,” said Cllr Owens.

The Cathaoirleach's Fianna Fail colleague, Cllr Declan Harvey, said he had a “couple of big battles” with Mr Murray, especially on the street enhancement plan for Tullamore, and on the water quality in the town. “Except for the Latin, everything else was grand,” said Cllr Harvey.

The Independent member from Edenderry, Cllr John Foley, wished Mr Murray every success and said he would like to think he taught the council official something about Edenderry.

Renua leader Cllr John Leahy described Mr Murray as a “straight shooter”. “He's never led me astray. Any advice he's given me was spot-on,” said the Kilcormac councillor.

Cllr Eamon Dooley, Fianna Fail, used a football metaphor when he said Mr Murray was the type of fellow “you'd like to pull on when he'd rise for the ball” while Cllr Tommy McKeigue, Fine Gael, said debates would be “less onerous” on councillors in the official's absence. “He always had himself well briefed coming in and he was on top of his game,” stated Cllr McKeigue.

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