Independent councillor Christy Hyland was elected as the Cathaoirleach of the new Westport-Belmullet Municipal District this week.
Cllr Hyland was elected after he beat Fine Gael councillor Gerry Coyle on a vote of 4-3 in the chamber on Monday after a sometimes fractious and heated debate in the chamber in Westport.
Fianna Fáil councillor Brendan Mulroy - who is the Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council - proposed Cllr Hyland for the position, that proposal was seconded by Fianna Fáil's Cllr Sean Carey. Fine Gael's Cllr Gerry Coyle interjected: "I was going to propose you Sean". Cllr Carey responded: "I'm only in the door." Cllr Coyle then said: "Then I am going to propose Cllr McNamara [FF] because we want to keep it down west. We want to keep it in the area that has only three councillors. I'm surprised at you, Sean, you had a sign up saying 'Carey for Change' — is that the change, keeping everything in Westport."
Cllr Carey hit back saying: "It is over five years," to which Cllr Coyle replied: "It's over five years, but what I am talking about is today. Westport has the chairman of the council, they have Minister Ring in Westport, and you are now going to give them carte blanche to have another chair in Westport. This year is the most year they shouldn't have it.
"We lost a councillor, we have three councillors when we had four - we elected four the last time against all the might of Westport - I am going to remind you what happened the last time in the council, the Údarás seat was taken out of Belmullet and sent up to Kilkelly and I am sick of people talking to me about rural Ireland. Someone sent me a speech you made about rural issues the last night and now the first chance, what are you going to do is give the chairman away."
Cllr Carey responded: "Three were elected in the Belmullet area and four in the Westport area, do you think three is going to beat four."
Cllr Mulroy replied: "Can I say I have never heard such shambolic politics in all my life - it is ironic because yourself and Minister Ring would be good friends. You came in the door and accused us of having Minister Ring - we will make no apology for having Minister Ring and I'll tell you another thing, I will make no apology for when you pointed across the table and said you got the chairman - because I have taken flak over last week because I took the Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council and I should not have had to listen to such nonsense.
"Rather than people be proud and honoured all I'm taking is flak, Minister Ring is getting it today because he is from Westport - if there is an anti-Westport bias in this chamber, now is the time to say it. I will say one thing, Cllr Peter Flynn [FG] and Cllr John O'Malley [Ind] voted against me in the council chamber the last day, and I have no problem with that. But I will not expect anybody to come in here and start pointing fingers and say, I am going to nominate you and then picking on Cllr Carey who is newly elected, you're playing politics is what you are Gerry."
Nobody seconded Cllr Coyle's proposal for Cllr McNamara, however his party colleague Cllr Peter Flynn then proposed Cllr Coyle for the position saying: "We have enough division in Castlebar last week to do us a lifetime. I honestly thought we could come back here today and be sensible about how we would do things. There is a divide between Fianna Fáil/Independents and Fine Gael, it is what it is. I would like to think we could come to a sensible agreement, ultimately the chair of the Municipal District is a symbolic thing. There is no question the whole rural town divide has come up, whether it is any of the three rural councillors I don't mind, I think it would send a good message that we have the Cathaoirleach of the county in Westport, that it would send a nice message that Belmullet is part of the district and that we don't create that divide from day one, unfortunately that is the way we are going from day one."