It was a playground debate in more ways than one at Monday’s meeting of Westmeath County Council, as chairman Cllr Peter Burke was forced to point out to councillors “We are not in kindergarten”.
Chairing his first meeting, cathaoirleach Cllr Burke had to ring the bell and call for order on several occasions as councillors traded insults and shouted over each other during a heated debate on the proposed Tyrrellspass playground.
“Adhere to the rules of the debate...we are not in kindergarten... keep personal comments out of it,” interjected Cllr Burke, as councillors sparred in front of an audience of Tyrrellspass residents who were sitting in to witness the decision on a playground for their village.
The heated exchange was sparked when Fine Gael’s Cllr Colm Arthur accused his Kilbeggan Area colleagues, Labour’s Cllr Ger Corcoran and Fianna Fáil’s Cllr Paul Daly of being “weak” and of not engaging with constituents over the location of the proposed playground.
“It’s bad enough we have two weak councillors who haven’t the guts to engage with people, but then our TD [Deputy Robert Troy] - the opposition spokesperson for children - comes out and is against a playground,” said Cllr Arthur, as Cllr Corcoran called out: “Objection - scandalous!”
When Cllr Arthur went on to call on Deputy Troy to consider his position as children’s spokesperson, Fianna Fáil’s Cllr Paddy Hill could take no more.
“I take exception to the remarks to Paul Daly and Ger Corcoran. These people are representing the people, as is Robert Troy. Any of us could make these kind of remarks but thankfully we don’t, and I think Colm Arthur should withdraw them,” he stated, but there was no such withdrawal.
A vote finally put the matter to rest, with 15 councillors voting against the location of the playground off the Mullingar Road and only seven in favour.