Cllr Paul Hogan has slammed a decision to appoint former councillor Alan Shaw to Westmeath’s Audit Committee ahead of sitting councillor Sorca Clarke, saying it “stinks of jobs for the boys”.
Sinn Féin Councillor Hogan argued that his party colleague Cllr Clarke was highly qualified for the position, but was being overlooked because she was both a woman and a member of Sinn Féin.
Both nominees are qualified accountants.
The controversy erupted at Monday’s county council meeting, which included an agenda item to nominate one member to the council’s audit committee to replace former councillor Peter Burke who was recently elected a TD.
Fine Gael councillors Tom Farrell and John Dolan proposed and seconded Alan Shaw, a former elected member of Athlone Town Council for Fine Gael and a senior manager at accountancy firm Russell Brennan Keane. However Cllr Hogan immediately queried the nomination, pointing out that, in accordance with Standing Orders, there should be at least two elected members on the audit committee.
In response, Westmeath CEO Pat Gallagher outlined the requirements for the five-person audit committee, ie that two or more members should have experience in finance or accounting; that there should be a gender balance; and that not more than two members should be serving or retired councillors.
When Cllr Michael O’Brien (Ind ) pointed out that Alan Shaw is a former Athlone town councillor rather than a county councillor, Mr Gallagher said the regulations didn’t address that level of detail.
Cllr Hogan then proposed Cllr Clarke for the position, which was seconded by Cllr Una D’Arcy (SF ), who said that in keeping with the “spirit of the criteria” it would be preferable to appoint a sitting councillor to the committee.
“If we are replacing a serving member, we should look to the people who are elected and have a mandate. Sorca Clarke meets the criteria and is an elected member.”
“The equitable gender balance criteria is there to ensure there are enough women there rather than men,” she added.
However a show of hands found in favour of Mr Shaw by a majority of 10 to four.
Cllr Hogan said it was “outrageous” that a qualified member of the council had been excluded.
“It stinks of jobs for the boys. I am absolutely disgusted that the most qualified person in the room has been excluded because a ) she’s a female, and b ) she’s a member of Sinn Féin - whichever it is,” he concluded.