Tributes have been paid to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s strategic director of neighbourhood services, Sharon O’Gorman, following her decision to take a one-year career break.
As strategic director of neighbourhood services Ms O’Gorman is ultimately responsible for environmental services, health and recreation facilities and estates and asset management.
Confirmation of her decision to step back from the role for a year was made public on Monday, June 27 during the council’s monthly meeting as Lord Mayor Councillor Paul Greenfield thanked her for all her effort over the years.
“We had a meeting today and how diligent you have been right to the very end if to be commended and we want to thank you for that,” said the Lord Mayor.
Alderman Gareth Wilson told the chamber he has known Ms O’Gorman since he was first elected to Armagh City and District Council and described her as “one of our best officials”.
“You have worked tremendously well throughout the last number of years and with family life and how demanding a few youngsters can be I can’t fault you you for taking a wee bit of time out to focus on them and I do want to wish you well in your time off,” he said.
“I hope you enjoy it and want you to know it has been great working with you other the past few years.”
UUP group leader, Alderman Jim Speers said he first met Sharon O’Gorman when she came to the council as “a young girl” and described as a “star of the show over many years”.
“As a councillor I always found you extremely helpful and very diligent in your work. On a personal level, may I say a very sincere word of thanks to you,” said Alderman Speers.
“You are someone I treated as a good friend within Council and I certainly have always found you, in every respect, a very fair, diligent, determined officer and I have utmost admiration and respect for you.
“I wish you well and I know this Council will be the poorer for you not being here but we certainly look forward to your returning to, I am sure, even greater things.”
SDLP group leader Thomas O’Hanlon quipped that Ms O’Gorman was “still a young girl” in his eyes and expressed his “sincere thanks” to her.
“I have always found you to be not just a damn good officer but a very competent officer and someone who has broken many glass ceilings for the female work force across the public sector,” he said.
“Anything that you have put your hand to you have excelled in. I sincerely hope in the time ahead we will be welcoming you back. This is about you taking time with your family and as someone who has a young family I know only too well the pressures involved.
“Over the past number of years, you have been instrumental in ensuring the delivery of Council services throughout the pandemic and I can certainly imagine it wont just be councillors that will miss you but also your colleagues around the executive table.
“You have a wise head and experience that is not easily found out there.”
Alliance Party Councillor Peter Lavery said both the quality and quantity of Ms O’Gorman’s work during his time on council has been “unprecedented” and wished her well during her time off.
Sinn Fein group leader, Councillor Liam Mackle said both he and his party wished Ms O’Gorman “all the best” in her year off and looked forward to seeing her back at work next year.
Ms O’Gorman said she was “very humbled” by all the comments she received and wished her successor Jonathan Hayes every success in his interim role.
“Your words mean a lot to me, I have certainly enjoyed working with you all,” she said.
“It is now time for me to take time out and spend it with my family. I am very fortunate that this organisation is affording me the opportunity to do so and it is great to be part of an organisation that enables that for people as well.
“Thank-you again members and I want to wish Jonathan every success in his acting up role.
“He will certainly be a great officer in that role, so thank-you members very much.”