Councillors from across the political divide paid tribute to a former Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council Lord Mayor following his decision to step down as a public representative.
While Sinn Fein councillor Garath Keating made his decision to stand aside public knowledge in November of last year, Council’s meeting on Monday, February 28 was his last as a public representative.
His party’s group leader, Councillor Liam Mackle said the Councillor affectionately known as ‘Patch’ had been an “excellent constituency representative for Armagh City since 2014” and “danced his way through a fantastic year as Lord Mayor” in 2016.
“His wit and wisdom will be sorely missed by all our group,” said Cllr Mackle.
“I would like to wish him and his family all the very best for the future and to thank him for his massive contribution to this council and to the borough, thank-you Patch.”
Alliance Party councillor, Peter Lavery also wished Cllr Keating well for the future and said he hoped their paths would cross again in the future.
SDLP group leader, Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon also wished Cllr Keating and his family every happiness and described the Armagh man as one who was very popular with the district’s residents.
“It has been a pleasure working with you,” said Cllr O’Hanlon.
“You brought a bit of enthusiasm and spark to your time as Lord Mayor and your time on this council so good luck and I wish you every happiness in the years ahead.”
Also wishing him well for the future, UUP group leader, Alderman Jim Speers said Cllr Keating’s style brought “a slightly different image” to the Council.
“His style is a unique feature of the man and I wish him well in his endeavours. I suspect he made an impression on quite a few people and I wish him well,” he said.
Cllr Keating’s Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Paul Greenfield said he had been “very good to work with” and wished him well in the years ahead.
Council’s Lord Mayor, Alderman Glenn Barr also paid tribute to Cllr Keating who he said “brought something different to the table”.
Thanking everyone for their kind words, Cllr Keating paid tribute to Council staff, his fellow councillors and in particular, his Sinn Fein party colleagues, family and friends.
“It has been a real privilege to work with such dedicated council staff over the last eight years,” said Cllr Keating.
“These are people who are go to work every day with the aim to improve our public services and facilities for rate payers and I really want to acknowledge the work our staff do and thank them for it.
“It has been a really enjoyable experience to have served in the chamber and laterally, in a digital and hybrid chamber.
“It does get hot and heavy from time to time but such is the cut and thrust of politics. No matter how fiery the exchanges have been, for the most part we have always been able to have a friendly cup of tea afterwards and for that, I will always be grateful and thankful for the civility we all show each other for the most part.
“I have great respected for each and everyone of you and whilst I clearly think that most of you are wrong about most things that we discussed in the chamber, I do nonetheless appreciate you mean well for your constituents.”
He continued: “I want to say a special word of thanks to my Sinn Fein party colleagues who are, in all sincerity, the nicest group of people anyone could wish to work with.
“It has been a tremendous honour and privilege to serve the public alongside such great comrades.
“I would also like to thank the fantastic people of Armagh for their unwavering support and kindness to me over the past eight years. I leave this role content and happy that you will remain in very safe hands with our local Sinn Fein team.
“Finally, I want to thank my family and friends for their infinite support and love. They have been very understanding of the competing time demands of public representation and am very much looking forward to making up for some of the missed dinners and family gatherings in the time ahead.”