Fine Gael councillor Pádraig Conneely should be made apologise for his “unseemly and disruptive behaviour” which led to the abandonment of Monday’s city council meeting.
This is the view of Labour city councillor Niall McNelis who said Cllr Conneely shouting “go home” to the city’s chief fire officer Michael Raftery was “unacceptable”.
Monday’s meeting saw the chief fire officer, along with Galway County Council’s director of services Eugene Cummins, give a presentation to councillors.
In December, the fire service boundary was pushed out from 2.5km to 5km at an estimated saving, according to Cllr Conneely, of €25,000. Councillors were concerned by this, fearing that lives could be put at risk in order to save money.
During the course of a question and answer session, the outspoken Cllr Conneely accused the fire chief of not answering questions over a number of issues, including the amount of money owed to the service from uncollected call-out charges.
“We should have some say, we have a budget allocation of €4 million each year for the fire service. I’m not happy with what we’re getting,” said Cllr Conneely.
He added: “What’s €25,000 for one life when you have nine fire chiefs in this city, and I’m sure not one of them would put a bucket of water on a fire to put it out. This is the risk we are putting the people of the city at for a measly €25,000.”
Director Cummins felt the cut was necessary due to the current economic uncertainty. He went on to say: “€25,000 would fix a lot of footpaths”. The director also felt the fiscal burden should be shared among all State employees and none should be singled out as being more important.
Cllr Conneely strongly disagreed: “I don’t believe that all State employees need to share the economic burden, some services should not be cut at all.”
According to Cllr Conneely a sum of €1 million is owed to the fire service in uncollected call-out charges and the budget cut was unnecessary considering the level of outstanding income.
When asked to confirm the amount of money owed, Mr Raftery was reluctant to offer any figure to Cllr Conneely, responding that “quite a bit” was owed. His response angered the Fine Gaeler who started roaring and shouting at him, telling him to “go home”.
When Cllr Conneely refused to apologise city officials and Mayor Terry O’Flaherty called an end to the meeting.
Speaking afterwards, Labour councillor Niall McNelis strongly criticised Cllr Conneely’s behaviour, saying: “It is unacceptable that Cllr Conneely continues to treat staff and visitors to city council with contempt.”
Cllr McNelis said it is “possible to engage in debate without descending to roaring and shouting in a manner which is designed to humiliate and vilify public servants.”
He now wants to see Cllr Conneely “apologise unreservedly” to Mr Cummins, Mr Raftery, and to the rest of the elected members before he returns to the council chamber.