In less than a month in the mayoral office, first time Mayor Hildegarde Naughton has completed a second U-turn on a controversial decision.
The Mayor used her casting vote in the chamber on Monday evening to block Senator David Norris from addressing the chamber in September.
A short time later during an RTÉ interview, Mayor Naughton stated her vote was a mistake, and that she would do everything in her power to ensure Senator Norris addressed the council in the autumn.
Last evening the new Mayor told the Galway Advertiser: “It was an error of judgment on my part, there was a lot to get through on Monday evening. I was focusing on the development plan issue, and I should have allowed him a chance to speak.”
The council is now on summer break, and there will be no council meeting until September, the meeting at which Senator Norris wished to make his address. Mayor Naughton said: “I have contacted Senator Norris and told him I would do what I could to facilitate his address.”
As the council will not be able to meet again to take another vote on allowing Senator Norris to speak, Mayor Naughton said “I need to explore the options with the council, and I will need the support of councillors.”
Mayor Naughton denied there was anything homophobic about the decision to prevent Senator Norris from speaking. “I have great respect for Senator Norris,” she said, “and I would be very disappointed if that line was being attached to the situation.”
On the outcome of the vote Independent councillor Catherine Connolly said: “The decision to deny opportunity to Senator David Norris to address Galway City Council in September is scandalous.
“The Mayor now says she made a mistake and misunderstood the nature of the vote. The admission of a mistake by the Mayor is welcome but is very difficult to understand given the context of the discussion.”
Cllr Connolly claimed Fianna Fáil councillors made it perfectly clear that they were not in favour of the Senator addressing the council - a motion which was supported by FG and the Mayor.
“There was absolutely no room for a misunderstanding by the Mayor,” said Connolly. “It is crystal clear that following the decision and its almost immediate broadcast on the news outlets throughout the country, the Mayor was put under pressure by FG in Dublin to do some sort of U-turn to try and contain the damage”.
Cllr Connolly said, with the exception of the death of Brid Cummins, a former tenant of the city council, that it was the most sickening moment of her time as a city councillor.
Fianna Fáil councillor Michael Crowe was forthright in his opinion: “We are not hearing from David Norris.” Fine Gael councillor Pádraig Conneely also said “I would oppose Senator Norris addressing the chamber.”
When the casting vote fell on the Mayor she paused, and stated decisively and clearly that she wished to vote against allowing Senator Norris to appear.
Representatives from Mary Davis were denied the opportunity to address the council, while a vote was taken to allow her to return in person in September.
Also present was Damien Mulqueen, who gave a five minute presentation on his plans for the office of the president. These ideas included legally taking over the Corrib Gas Field, and creating a new political capital on a green field site near Moate, similar to that of Canberra, Australia.