The monthly meeting of Ballina Town Council was adjourned early on Wednesday night when Mayor Councillor Frances McAndrew called a halt to proceedings after Cllr Michelle Mulherin failed to heed her warnings to stick to what was on the agenda.
The Mayor first adjourned the meeting for a five minute period when Cllr Mulherin raised the issue of water charges, while the councillors were noting the financial update on the council’s accounts up to the end of September this year. Mayor McAndrew warned Cllr Mulherin to stay on the topic, but proceedings turned into a heated exchange, before independent councillor Gerry Ginty proposed a five minute adjournment, seconded by Independent councillor Mary Kelly.
About an hour into the meeting a large group of traders arrived and sat in the public gallery. Later on as councillors discussed planning issues, both Fianna Fáil councillor Willie Nolan and Independent councillor Peter Clarke raised the issue of the traffic plan in the town, which has caused much controversy among a number of traders in Ballina since its introduction.
Mayor McAndrew ruled both Cllr Clarke and Cllr Nolan out of order, but Cllr Mulherin continued to raise the issue despite Mayor McAndrew calling for her to stick to the planning item on the agenda. When she refused again Mayor McAndrew adjourned the meeting early with six notices of motion still to be discussed by the members.
Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser yesterday morning, Mayor McAndrew stated: “Cllr Mulherin wouldn’t listen to me and I had to stop the meeting.”
Independent councillor Gerry Ginty stated: “The traders have concerns and if they requested a meeting with us, there is not one councillor that would refuse to meet them. There is a way to raise issues and there are rules on how you conduct your business at a meeting, it’s my honest belief that some people are using this issue for political motives. Cllr Mulherin manipulated the issue to make a name for herself.”
He went on to say there was damage being done to Ballina but it was not because of the traffic in the town. “What has damaged Ballina is not the traffic, it’s the highlighting of saying there is a traffic problem in the town and you can’t get in and out of it. The longest I’ve been held up is five minutes maybe.”
One of the traders at the meeting, Patrick Kelly from Hughes Children’s Boutique on O’Rahilly Street, said: “The purpose of going to the meeting was to see what was going on. We want to see the traffic revert to the old system.”
Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser yesterday evening, Cllr Mulherin said she felt those in control of the Fianna Fáil council were trying to silence her on issues of major concern to the people of Ballina because it didn’t suit them to be criticised either at a local or a Government level.
“They won’t gag me, because it’s my job as an elected official to represent the people of Ballina. I don’t expect everyone to have the same view point as me, but I would at least expect you to debate the issues with me and not try and shut me up.”