By Joe Barrett
Another woman was added to the ranks of Laois County Council on Monday 27 February, when Marie Tuohy was co-opted following the retirement of her husband Noel in December.
Cllr Tuohy (Labour) brings the number of female representatives on Laois County Council to five; the other sitting councillors are Caroline Dwane Stanley (Sinn Féin), Aisling Moran, Thomasina Connell (Fine Gael) and Catherine Fitzgerald (Fianna Fáil). The remaining 14 seats are filled by men.
Cllr Dwane Stanley proposed the co-option, which was seconded by cllr Willie Aird.
Cllr Dwane Stanley described cllr Tuohy as “a formidable lady. She has been an absolute rock and great strength to Noel when Noel was on the council. I have no doubt that she’ll do a fantastic job as a councillor. We’ll do whatever we can to support her and delighted to welcome her into our group (two Sinn Féin and two independent councillors).
“We met this morning with Marie. Although she was a bit nervous, I have no doubt that, once she gets her first meeting over with, there won’t be a bother on her.”
Cllr Aird said: “I know it’s a great honour to the Tuohy family that Marie is taking over from Noel. Marie will always be a friend of mine, the same as Noel was. I worked with Marie for years in Portlaoise swimming pool. She was an excellent secretary. I know that she’ll have a huge contribution to make, not just for the people of Portlaoise but for people throughout the county.”
Cllr Fitzgerald said: “I, too, would welcome Marie on board. She is going to be a huge addition to councillors in the Portlaoise Municipal District.”
Cllr John King said: “It’s good to see Marie on board. There’s more colours being added to that side (technical group). Every man has an eye for the ladies. Today is like a wedding day. It’s all cheers. It’s nice to be part of a voice for your area. Working with Noel over the years means you’re half-trained already.”
Cllr Paschal McEvoy said: “If there is anything I can do to support you, I will.”
Cllr Pádraig Fleming said that taking a seat in the council chamber is a “great honour”.
“I wish you the best of luck and have no doubt that you will do well. Noel was known as a hard-working councillor and I have no doubt that you will be, too. I know you will put your own personal stamp on what you do,” he said.
Cllr Seamus McDonald said: “I’ve known Marie for a long number of years. Indeed, Marie’s brother lives beside me, my next-door neighbour in Clonaslee. Marie is going to fill a number of roles and I look forward to working with her over the coming months.”
Cllr Aisling Moran said: “I know that you will be fantastic at your job. You will be well suited to it. You have big boots to fill and I’m sure that you will fill them.”
Cllr Conor Bergin said: “Although Marie will be representing the Portlaoise area, her roots are in the western area, in the Clonaslee area. I look forward to working with her in the chamber.”
Cllr Ollie Clooney said: “We will miss Noel. He had high standards, but I have no doubt that Marie was his number two and will equal that, if not surpass it.”
Cllr James Kelly said: “I knew Marie meant business when she walked into our technical meeting this morning. She went in and sat at the head of the table. We know exactly where we’re going to be. All the councillors are here to help you, as are the staff at Laois County Council. It won’t take you too long to find your feet and be up and running.”
Cllr Barry Walsh said that he was in a similar situation to Marie a year ago as he took up a seat on the council.
“My advice would be to sit back and watch how things proceed. You’ll get comfortable after a couple of weeks. As the old saying goes: ‘behind every good man there’s a good woman’ and we have a good woman in Marie,” he said.
Cllr Paddy Bracken said: “I know well that you’ll be an excellent public rep.”
Cllr Ben Brennan said: “Marie will have 100% support from the technical group. With our group we have reached the gender balance of 40%. I know we worked well with Noel before, but we have a better-looking councillor now.”
Cllr John Joe Fennelly wished cllr Tuohy well in the role.
Cathaoirleach cllr Connell said: “You have always struck me as a person who is kind. A person with great empathy and with great strength. I know that you will deliver for the people of Portlaoise and around the county.
“As a woman coming into the chamber that is traditionally occupied by men, you have the support of the other 18 councillors, but particularly your female colleagues in Laois County Council. Best wishes and the best of luck with your time on the council.”
Replying, cllr Tuohy thanked everyone for their welcome.
She said: “I feel privileged sitting in the seat here today. I know what this seat meant to Noel and how hard it was to get in in the first place. The promise that I can make is that I will do my best in everything I can for everyone.
“Noel has always spoken so highly of the staff in Laois County Council that I feel I already know people that I haven’t yet met.”
She went on to thank her family and friends, who were present in the chamber to see her taking her seat.