Special meeting required following war of words at City Hall

The Galway City Council will call a special meeting next Monday to adopt a formal resolution on the city’s bid to become European Capital of Culture 2020. The resolution was due to be discussed by the local authority on Monday, but the meeting was abruptly halted when an argument broke out among the members.

The meeting descended into chaos during a vote to fill casual vacancies on a number of committees, arising out the election of Dep Catherine Connolly to Dáil Éireann. Dep Connolly’s sister, Cllr Colette Connolly, was co-opted to Dep Connolly’s seat following the General Election and has been taking Dep Connolly’s place on a number of committees following her co-option.

Cllr Connolly was nominated and voted onto the transport and environment, recreation, and amenity SPCs, but she took exception to the vote when Cllr Padraig Conneely challenged her and was voted on to the Corrib Navigation Trustees, claiming that a vote on the vacancies was unwarranted.

Cllr Connolly, who has since condemned the action as “totally unacceptable and misogynistic”, told the council she would seek legal advice on the issue. “Co-option onto this council does not require any vote and what you’re doing is illegal, and I’m putting you on notice that I’m taking legal advice,” she warned.

The city council’s chief executive, Brendan McGrath, said he would also seek legal advice on the matter and asked that the vote be adjourned. However Cllr Conneely insisted that his election to the committee was valid and would stand.

As arguments broke out across the chamber, Cllr Conneely repeatedly goaded Cllr Connolly, who previously lost her council seat in the 2014 local election, telling her, “The people of Galway rejected you.” Meanwhile Cllr Ollie Crowe, who had nominated Cllr Connolly for the position on the Corrib Navigation Trustees, castigated Mayor Frank Fahy for allowing the vote.

“In your last meeting [as mayor] you are trying to bully a lady out of a position she’s entitled to,” Cllr Crowe said to Mayor Fahy. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Mayor Fahy took exception to Cllr Crowe’s comments and walked out of the chamber. “I’m adjourning the meeting,” he said on his way out. “I’m not going to take that abuse.”

As the meeting dissipated in the absence of the mayor, Mr McGrath told the remaining councillors that a special meeting would be necessary in order to deal with the Galway 2020 bid. It is understood the council must formally ratify its commitment to the plans set out in the bid book before it is submitted next month.

The meeting will also discuss the legal advice received by the council on the filling of casual vacancies on committees and other bodies.

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