Outgoing Mayor of Drogheda Frank Godfrey had to wait until after the official ceremony to wish his successor Councillor Paul Bell well and to (unofficially) hand over the chain of office.
Like all such events, yesterday’s Mayoral election in Drogheda meant different things to different people but for outgoing Mayor Frank Godfrey, who was in the public gallery, it must have been very difficult.
It was a humiliating end to a long and colourful career and an insult to Frank who has devoted much of his life to serving the community he loves, to be denied the opportunity to officially hand over the chain of office of Mayor to his successor as has been the custom for many years. Yes, he lost his seat in the elections, but that never stopped previous Mayors from taking part in the handover ceremony.
Instead a senior official in Louth County Council was despatched to Godfrey’s home in Donore a few days ahead of the Mayoral election to collect the chain which was presented to the incoming Mayor, Councillor Paul Bell, by Alan Sherry, a Senior Executive Officer in the Corporate Services section of Louth County Council.
No offence to Alan Sherry but not only was this insulting to Mr. Godfrey himself who is, let’s face it, no shrinking violet and well able to give and take criticism, but it was also an insult to the office of Mayor of Drogheda which has existed in various guises since 1285.
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This seemingly insignificant episode is perhaps an indication of the struggle which, since the so-called reform of Local Government in 2014, has resulted in a shift of power in local authorities away from the elected representatives and into the hands of salaried staff.
The treatment meted out to the outgoing Mayor was a symptom of that shift in power. Whereas for hundreds of years the incoming Mayor of Drogheda was presented with the chain of office which had been worn with pride by his or her predecessors since time immemorial, now it is the Council officials who confer the honour thus breaking the continuity reaching back over the centuries.
It was perhaps indicative of the thinking in County Hall that civil servants saw fit to treat our first citizen in this despicable manner. It showed their contempt for pesky, troublesome and opinionated councillors who dare to influence their plans and who are, at best, a thorn in the sides of officialdom.
By contrast it was testament to the esteem and love with which Frank Godfrey is held that every single one of the Councillors paid tribute to him as they congratulated incoming Mayor Paul Bell and the new Deputy Mayor Michelle Hall.
Love him or loathe him, I doubt very much if we have seen the last of Frank Godfrey in the public arena, indeed he has already said he intends to stand again next time around.
Whatever he decides to do we wish him well, for half a century he has been a stalwart for Drogheda a town that he loves dearly and was never afraid to declare that love.
We have moved into a different era, one that is more professional perhaps, but we can only hope that the professionals in Louth County Council can find the passion for Drogheda and for Louth that has driven Frank Godfrey for a half century and more.
This article was written by Andy Spearman
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