Councillor McMonagle (54) said nearest drugs rehabilitation unit was in Galway and called on the council to work with other agencies such as the HSE and VEC to ensure facilities are put in place for young people who have such problems.
Cllr McMonagle spent 28 months in Crumlin Road Jail, Belfast over two terms in the early 1980s but on Monday night made history as the first Sinn Féin Mayor in Letterkenny.
It has been a remarkable journey from Republican activist to peace maker and community worker in one of the most populated areas of Letterkenny.
The new Mayor has also has also identified infrastructural deficits around the town such as the ‘Bonagee Link’, helping local businesses’ and recognising the ‘unsung heroes’ who are involved in community work as some of the priorities during his tenure.
“It has been a long journey but I think my election shows how far society – North and South has come in the last 20 years,” he said.
“I’m a Republican through and through and I’m delighted many of my comrades are here tonight. My election is the culmination of many years of struggle. When I was elected back in 2004 we didn’t have a county councillor and TD in this area and now we have. Power sharing is working now all over the country,” he said.
“In this council party politics is left at the door as the councillors work together for the good of Letterkenny. I don’t take the responsibility that comes with the office of Mayor lightly. It is a huge honour and privilege. I came to the town in 1984 and Letterkenny has given a lot to me and my family. I’d like to dedicate the honour of being Mayor to my late father who done so much for me and the family,” Cllr McMonagle said.
First elected to the Town Council in 2004 Cllr McMonagle, a native of the Creggan in Derry, cut his teeth in community work around the Slieve Sneacht, Ballyboe and Glenwood Park areas.
He is a Director of the Board of Management of Letterkenny Community Development Project and a prominent member of the Abhaile Aris group which assists former republican prisoners get back into mainstream society.
“There is a maturity now and also the peace process has bedded in and it shows the acceptance of Sinn Féin. I have been involved in community work all my life. I joined Letterkenny CDP in 2001 and we have worked on various initiatives in this area over the years to assist young people and develop facilities,” he said.
A large crowd of supporters joined with Cllr McMonagle and his family to celebrate his election as Mayor including his mother, Mary, uncle Patsy and colleagues from Letterkenny CDP.
Cllr McMonagle was proposed by Councillor Tom Crossan and seconded by Councillor Jim Lynch. Fine Gael councillor Jimmy Kavanagh was elected as Deputy Mayor.
The leader of the Fianna Fáil party on the local authority Cllr Ciaran Brogan said he had no doubt Cllr McMonagle would hold the office of Mayor in high regard.
“Cllr McMonagle has made a valuable contribution to the town since he was first elected back in 2004. It is just and rewarding that he should be elected Mayor,” he said.
The longest serving councillor in the town Councillor Victor Fisher said Cllr McMonagle had ‘worked hard’ for the town while Cllr Jim Lynch said he was delighted to see ‘consensus politics’ at work to elect the Sinn Féin representative.
“Cllr McMonagle comes from an area of the town that is as big as Buncrana where there is umpteen social problems. For years he has been campaigning to improve conditions. Your election is a breakthrough for the underdog,” he said.
Cllrs Pascal Blake, Tadhg Culbert and Jimmy Kavanagh also joined in congratulating Cllr McMonagle while the County Manager, Mr Seamus Neely said the new Mayor had an outstanding work ethic and would bring ‘experience and objectivity’ to the role.
Among those in attendance were Deputy Padraig MacLochlainn, the Mayor of Donegal, Cllr Cora Harvey, Deputy Mayor, Marie Therese Gallagher and Cllr Jack Murray.