Three prominent and long serving members of Wexford County Council are retiring and will not be contesting Friday’s Local Elections; Cllr Larry O’Brien (first elected in 1991), Cllr Martin Murphy (co-opted in 2007), both serving in the New Ross District, and Cllr Tony Dempsey (first elected in 2009) and outgoing Mayor of Wexford Borough and District Council.
Tributes were paid to all three members at the final meeting of the 2014-2019 Wexford County Council where Chairman Cllr Keith Doyle offered his good wishes but regretted that “many years of experience will be lost.”
Outgoing Mayor of Wexford Municipal Borough District, Tony Dempsey from Davidstown, Enniscorthy, was Chairman of Wexford GAA County Board in 1976, became Manager of the Wexford senior hurling team and was a Fianna Fail member elected to Dail Éireann in 2002.
Tom Enright CEO said; “He has been a consummate politician and we have been very fortunate to have had Tony as a member of Wexford County Council.”
Cllr Larry O’Brien was the longest serving member of Wexford County Council – 28 years – and he also served as Chairman of the County Council, Chairman of New Ross District, and was Chairman of the South Eastern Regional Authority, where he strongly defended Wexford, and over the past decade he was Chairman of the Hook Heritage Lighthouse Committee and had overseen its development into a major tourism attraction.
CEO Tom Enright reminded the members of Cllr O’Brien’s bravery in March 1987. “Before being elected to the Council, Larry was, as you all know, famous far and wide as the hero of the ‘Herald of Free Enterprise’ ferry disaster in Zeebrugge Harbour. Larry helped save the lives of between 30 and 40 people and being the modest person that he is said that ‘he felt he had done only what anyone else would do at the time’.
Cllr Barbara-Anne Murphy said Cllr O’Brien “fought his corner, but always went for the ball and not the man.”
Cllr O’Brien was modest in his retirement speech and went for a bit of humour. “28 years is a long time. I served with some of your parents,” a reference that applied to Cllrs Michael Whelan, Ger Carthy and Barbara-Anne Murphy.
He described “a great council” and wished everybody luck in the forthcoming elections and his parting shot was to urge the incoming councillors to “work together as a group – keep politics out of it – and work for the good of the people of Co. Wexford.
Cllr Martin Murphy was co-opted to the Council in 2007 and was re-elected in 2009 and 2014 in the New Ross district, topping the poll at the last election.
He is a member of the Board of management of Hook Lighthouse where he plays a very active role and calls on his invaluable experience of having worked in the lighthouse services for many years.
CEO Tom Enright said Cllr Murphy was “a very popular and hardworking councillor, particularly for the people of the Fethard and Saltmills,” he thanked him for his support and friendship and described him as “one of life’s true gentlemen. He is hugely respected by everyone and will be a great loss to the Council.”
Cllr Murphy said it was “a great honour to be elected by one’s peers and to represent their community.
“That is what local government is all about! It was a great experience and I hope I helped some people along the way,” he concluded.