Cassidy's Fermanagh First
The election of Geraldine Cassidy to the chair of Fermanagh District Council is being seen as a further boost to Sinn Féin's electoral potential in the area. Geraldine is the first Sinn Féin woman to secure the office of council chair and the first female chair elected in Fermanagh council.
She is also the first member of the party to hold the office of chair in Fermanagh for over a decade. Her success will increase Sinn Féin's profile at a time when the party's ambition in the forthcoming Westminster elections appear increasingly realisable.
Geraldine, from Irvinestown, has been a district councillor for over three years. Her election followed the unexpected resignation of the SDLP's Gerry Gallagher last week. Accepting her chain of office, Geraldine vowed to work for all the people of Fermanagh.
The future of the Erne Hospital, factory closures, the crisis in farming and the lack of investment in the road network, were all issues affecting local people, said the newly elected chair.
Sinn Féin is the second largest grouping on Fermanagh District Council, holding six seats to the Ulster Unionist Party's nine. The SDLP have four councillors and the DUP two. There are also two independent councillors.
Geraldine was elected on the basis of a six-monthly rotation of the two top seats, despite the refusal of unionist councillors to support a Sinn Féin candidate. Commenting on the unionists' stance, Geraldine described herself as ``disappointed''.
``If they could only see that things are changing,'' said Geraldine, ``and were able to acknowledge the fact that since my election as a councillor I have worked diligently for all sections of the community, Catholic and Protestant.''
Local Assembly member and Sinn Féin constituency candidate for the forthcoming Westminster election, Michelle Gildernew, welcomed her party colleague's election as chair and described it as ``a long time coming.
``I think Geraldine will do a great job. She is energetic, enthusiastic, intelligent and vocal,'' said Michelle. ``She is an asset to the council and the party.''