Fianna Fáil accused of playing ‘political games’ during Westport Town Council’s AGM
Fine Gael refuses to share role of Leas Cathaoirleach
By Geraldine Carr
A war of words broke out at Westport Town Council’s AGM this week over the nomination of the Leas Cathaoirleach, with Fine Gael refusing to share the chair with the council’s other political parties, after being asked whether this could be done by Fianna Fáil councillor Margaret Adams.
Prior to the election of Councillor Ollie Gannon as Cathaoirleach, Cllr Adams asked that for the remaining two years of the town council, the Fine Gael party should share the vice chair seat in order to “show community spirit”.
Following the election of the new Cathaoirleach, members of the Fine Gael party asked for a five minute adjournment so they could take Cllr Adams’ proposal on board; this five minute adjournment in fact lasted over half an hour.
On return at 10.30pm, Cllr Gannon said “we deliberated long and hard” and seriously took on board Cllr Adams’ proposal, however “the feeling was that Fine Gael have such a strong calibre of candidates” and “the Fine Gael party are united in not sharing the Leas Cathaoirleach position.”
Cllr Hyland proposed Cllr Tereasa McGuire for Leas Cathaoirleach and this was seconded by Cllr Michael McLaughlin.
Cllr Adams response was that she was “very disappointed”. “This is a very bad day for this council and indeed Westport” and added that the decision “won’t do any good for you publicly.”
Her party colleague, Cllr Brendan Mulroy, said that he too was disappointed, and agreed that it was a bad day for the chamber. Cllr Mulroy said “we spent half an hour at the beginning of the meeting saying what a great place Westport is to live and this is all hearsay now”. The Fianna Fáil councillor said that it is clear “Fine Gael have out a statement of intent to rule this town with an iron fist.”
Cllr Mulroy said “clearly it was not a unanimous decision as it took over half an hour” for the councillors to make a decision. The councillor said that during the half hour the Fine Gael councillors were out of the chamber there was a quorum in place and a decision of who should be Leas Cathaoirleach could have been made in their absence.
Cllr Martin Keane said he had mentioned on several occasions to Cllr Gannon that he would like to serve under him, and said that he was “disappointed but not surprised, as Fine Gael think they are top above everyone else in town”. The Independent councillor said “I think ye made wrong decision tonight, but good luck to ye.”
Cllr Gannon said that he did mention to his colleagues that Cllr Keane was an interested party, however the decision for Leas Cathaoirleach was brought with the “best intentions and best faith”.
Fine Gael councillor Michael McLaughlin said that the party was never approached prior to the AGM and the fact that it was brought up during the AGM was for a “pure media circus”. Cllr Myles
Cllr Adams said that at an AGM any proposal can be made and she denied “no cheap political shots” were being made. “You have the power to keep the Leas Cathaoirleach chair but I thought out of balance you would share it around.”
Cllr Adams then proposed Cllr Martin Keane for Leas Cathaoirleach. This was seconded by Cllr Mulroy and a vote was taken. Cllr Keith Martin abstained from voting, with the result being five votes against three in favour of Cllr Tereasa McGuire.