The first pre-election spat of the year in the council chamber saw a pragmatic, if somewhat irked, Cllr Aengus O’Rourke accept the unlikelihood of Fianna Fail returning to power after the next, soon-to-be-called, general election in a row over the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014.
Cllr Alan Shaw had brought a motion to the council this week proposing the town council write to the Taoiseach, and the Ministers of Finance and Environment, Heritage and Local Government, “to express its disapproval of the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014 because of its potential to damage local industry, and its lack of creativity which combined could give rise to further unemployment”. He was particularly critical about the possibility of the removal of tax breaks which incentivised development in the regions.
Cathaoirleach Sheila Buckley Byrne begged a more patient regard as “the plan is only four days old”, but it was Cllr O’Rourke’s dander that was substantially more poked by the thrust of the motion.
“I am surprised to be discussing the National Recovery Plan on the council floor, but it suggests Cllr Shaw is partaking in political game playing,” said Cllr O’Rourke. He then went on to virtually concede the General Election result, although was unable to do so in Cllr Shaw’s direction.
“The Taoiseach-elect Eamon Gilmore has gone on record saying he wouldn’t change a word of the National Recovery Plan, so I suggest Cllr Shaw address his letter to Deputy Gilmore,” declared Cllr O’Rourke.
Cllr Paul Hogan was quick to point out that before any decisions could be made on the NRP: “The first decision will be made by the people. Then the tough decisions will have to be made”.
The mollificatory tones of Boutros Boutros Cooney poured some oil on the troubled waters by suggesting that “Cllr Shaw was criticising the Plan from a local point of view”, before Cllr Shaw got support from the most surprising of sources.
“The councillors shouldn’t be throwing political mud across the chamber but there is merit in this motion and I’ll stand by it,” said Cllr Kevin “Boxer” Moran, who went on to point out the importance of the Section 23 tax break which promoted the building of all the now empty apartments on Connacht Street and at the town centre. The motion was thus passed.
The NRP was launched on November 24 by the Government as a plan to reduce the national deficit by 3 per cent of gross domestic producct (GDP )by 2014 by reducing spending by €10 billion and increasing tax revenue by €5 billion.