Having been recently elected as the new Cathaoirleach of Leitrim County Council, Enda Stenson has spoken of his pride and gratification to the people of the county and those who elected him to the seat, in becoming the First Citizen of the County. Speaking to the Leitrim Observer, the Mohernamela native spoke of his pride in taking over the position. “I am extremely grateful to the members who voted me into this position. It was very gratifying to be appointed and I am looking forward to serving my county.”
A former Chairperson of Eslin GAA and having spent two stints as Assistant Secretary of the Leitrim GAA County Board, Enda began his political career in 1999 when he took over the seat of Pauline McKeown, a Fine Gael Councillor who had previously taken over the seat of her husband Pascal in 1991. He said: “I would not say I come from a background of politics, although my two of my Uncles were keen quite politically minded. One was a Fine Gael supporter and the other Fianna Fail, although my father never really had a political allegiance, nor had my mother. I helped Pascal canvas in the late 80s and early 90s before he passed away. Pauline took over in 1991 and represented the seat and the family very well until 1999 when she left the seat. I was asked to put my name forward and it was totally my own decision to step in. I’m known quite well in the Eslin and Mohill areas and with the help and support of my friends and family, I’ve done my very best to represent the area.”
With 13 years of political experience under his belt, the Eslin native who is also a part-time farmer, says that politics, nor his beloved GAA is his first love. Enda is also a keen choir singer and has been part of the Parish Choir in Mohill and Carrick for many years. “Of all the things I love to do, choir singing is right up there,” he enthuses. “There is something uplifting and wonderful about a group of people coming together and singing in one voice. There is nothing better.”
Having spent eleven years as Assistant Secretary of Leitrim GAA from 1988 to 1999, Enda was part of the County Board that oversaw the famous 1994 Connacht Final victory over Mayo. Like any proud Leitrim man, he recalls the events of Hyde Park with extreme pride. “That was a wonderful year and it all accumulated in that fantastic day. That same Summer, I had won a trip to New York to the World Cup and I was behind the goal Ray Houghton scored into when Ireland beat Italy. It was a magical experience and then we came home to see the win over Mayo. At that stage, Leitrim football was on a gradual upwards curve and even though we all thought “here we go” when Mayo scored their second goal, we managed to pull it out of the bag. The sea of Leitrim people on the pitch in Roscommon is still one of my great memories.”
At that stage, the country was in the early stages of an economic boom and was shaking off the remains of the 1980s recession. The new Cathaoirleach is certain that July 24th 1994 was the day everything changed in Leitrim. “I believe what lifted the area out of the recession was the Connacht title win. It lifted us out of the 80s and things began to change from there on. People felt good and they were proud to be from Leitrim.”
So what does Enda envisage for the future of Leitrim? With 2013 ringing in the 400th anniversary of the foundation of Carrick-on-Shannon and ‘The Gathering’, a year long celebration of everything Irish taking place throughout County Leitrim and Ireland, the area and its representatives are set for a busy year. Enda was present at last week’s Volvo Ocean Race where Leitrim Tourism had a ‘Taste of Leitrim’ stand which showcased music, food and entertainment from the county. According to Enda, the interest shown in the stand was just a sample of how much interest there is in the county. “The positivity towards the stand was something to behold. There were people coming up to me and telling me all about their Leitrim connections, telling me “my mother is from Manorhamilton, or my grandmother is from Gortletteragh” and they have promised us they are coming back to Leitrim next year and this is what we are about. We are encouraging people who have Leitrim connections to come back and have a look around and take it from there. This is what events like the 400 and The Gathering is all about.”
Enda will also oversee the arrival of the Connacht Fleadh in 2013. An event which Carrick and Leitrim County Council have fought hard to bring to the county. “The Fleadh is something we have been very lucky to get to Carrick. It will bring 20,000 people into the town on the first week of July, and we are starting it with The Hup Festival which will take place during the week which leads into weekend of the Fleadh.”
Another ambition of Enda’s is on the back of next year’s festivities, to create jobs in the area he will represent. He explains; “Hopefully the good will toward the county will help create employment in the area. I certainly will be with the County Manager and Director of Services in getting in contact with the IDA (Industrial Development Authority). The IDA right throughout the good times, did not create one single job in Carrick and I think that’s an indictment to them and I think it’s a disgrace that happened. People criticise the Council for the amount of developments that took place in the County, but we were being told jobs were coming and we had to be in a position to build houses for people who were to take these jobs. The houses were built for employees to live in but the Government reneged on their promise.”
Despite this, Enda is extremely hopeful in the wake of Leitrim’s reunification in the recent constituency commission. “When the county was split in two, it was a disaster for a place like Leitrim. We were left with no representation until Michael Colreavy was elected and we are lucky to have him as he is a great TD. We had no voice so when decisions were being made we had no say in them. The county is one now and we will have representation in the next election.”
Along with looking forward to the next twelve months as Chairperson of Leitrim County Council, Enda also realises the responsibility of the role and the task he faces in replacing former Chair John McTernan. “It is difficult to follow John as he was an excellent Cathaoirleach who fulfilled his role admirably. He worked extremely hard and promoted the county at every chance he got as have former Chairs. I am extremely proud to be Chairperson for all of Leitrim and if there is any place, be it a festival or whatever and they want me, I will be there. I am an extremely positive person and I want people to be, like myself, proud to be from Leitrim. It’s an exciting time to be around the county and we can make the very most of all our opportunities if we pull together and go in the same direction.”
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