County Council rejects proposal for no confidence in Defence Minister
By Claire O’brien
Westmeath County Council will not be sending a letter to Defence Minister Alan Shatter, expressing a vote of no-confidence in him.
Fianna Fáil councillor Frankie Keena’s proposal was designed to reflect the anger of the local communities in Athlone and Mullingar to the closure of Columb Barracks and the down-grading of Custume Barracks.
However, his proposal was lost when Fine Gael and Labour put forward an amendment to his motion, suggesting the Minister instead be asked to consider Athlone as a new division headquarters.
The amendment was proposed by Cllr Mick Dollard, who said there had never been a motion of no confidence in a minister from the council and he didn’t think it would achieve anything.
More useful he said, was a request that Athlone’s Custume Barracks be considered as a new brigade headquarters.
Cllr Mark Cooney agreed that it was better “to try and do something positive”, and Cllr Dennis Leonard said “We have to be part of the solution”.
However, this was received less than warmly by Cllr Keena and his supporters, who insisted the Minister had snubbed the people of Westmeath.
The Taoiseach had declined to meet members of Athlone Town Council, and Cllr Keena said he believed he had also declined to meet army wives.
Cllr Ken Glynn said the council should “send out a strong message that we’re not happy”.
Cllr Kevin “Boxer” Moran said he saw “great merit” in Cllr Dollard’s proposal and wished him luck with it, but he said Minister Shatter had ignored councillors and ignored the people of Westmeath.
This was because Fine Gael and Labour feel “untouchable” in their overall majority.
“But you won’t feel another three years until you’re knocking on the doors,” he warned.
Cllr Paddy Hill described the Minister as “arrogant” and said he didn’t have faith in him.
The Fianna Fáil man said it was likely Mr Shatter will pay the same price as former Fianna Fáil ministers paid for not listening to the public.
Cllr Keena said the new headquarters had already been announced as Dublin and Cork and the amendment proposed by Cllr Dollard would simply embarrass the council.
Cllr Keena’s motion fell but Cllr Dollard’s amendment was carried by the council.