A member of the council since 2003 when he was co-opted to replace his brother, Senator Paddy Burke, following the scrapping of the dual mandate, the Ballyglass representative became the first member of his family to hold the prestigious post.
His grandfather, Patrick, had served as a county councillor from 1934 to 1945 while his father, Patrick, was a member from 1967 to 1974. His brother Paddy, cathaoirleach of An Seanad, was a councillor from 1979 to 2003.
In his address, Councillor Burke outlined the need to bring key stakeholders from relevant economic areas in the county together and ‘backed by real actions driven by realistic objectives and deliverables’.
He elaborated: “We are well aware of where our strengths lie in Mayo and I propose that we focus over the next 12 months on the areas of foreign direct investment, the Mayo diaspora, renewable energy and the progression of the Atlantic fibre optic cable through the creation of a Mayo economic forum.
“We need to create a Mayo brand which sets out what the county has to offer in terms of its skilled workforce, existing industries and the capacity for the county to absorb investment.
“Next year is the Year of the Gathering with events taking place throughout Ireland to encourage those with a connection to Ireland to visit and to explore their linkages with the country.
“This is where taking the initiative Mayo could see a real return on their investment. For example Cleveland, Ohio, has developed a venue called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which now attracts millions of enthusiasts from around the world.
“I believe that we could replicate a venue-based approach to stimulating economic activity by placing the Irish Diaspora Hall of Fame in Mayo. Such a venue could be driven by a Clan Reunion Ethos and would gather information on clans and develop an enormous database of Irish people spread all over the world.
“This idea would bring thousands of visitors to Ireland each year for reunions generating a huge spin off for the tourism industry and create jobs across a broad spectrum of sectors. In addition it could aid the development of Knock Airport which is currently expanding activities in spite of the economic climate.
“While this proposal would require investment, I feel that this is something we should explore over the next 12 months and we could undertake a pilot event during the Year of the Gathering in Mayo to develop this idea further.”
On the issue of renewable energy, Councillor Burke said by getting the right people around the table and establishing an action plan with specific targets, the council should be able to advance and enable greater levels of effective activity.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael Councillor Ollie Gannon will be installed as chairman of Westport Town Council tonight (Tuesday) while his party colleague, Councillor Brendan Henaghan, is in line to become Mayor of Castlebar for the second time next Thursday.
Fianna Fáil Councillor Willie Nolan is to be appointed chairman of Ballina Town Council tomorrow (Wednesday) to deny Fine Gael of a clean sweep.