The ongoing row between Fine Gael and the other elected members of Mayo County Council in relation to the filling of vacancies on Mayo VEC may finally be coming to a conclusion. The issue raised its head once again at the April meeting of the local authority on Monday, when Sinn Féin councillor Gerry Murray said he had “no option but to withdraw from the meeting” after he was not allowed to read the text of the legislation in relation to the appointment of people to the VEC following the resignation of a member.
The Sinn Féin councillor had a stand up row, with Cathaoirleach Cllr Michael Burke on a number of occasions asking Cllr Murray to take his seat, before Cllr Burke called a five minute suspension of the meeting. However when the meeting resumed both parties returned to the fractious debate.
Cllr Murray told the meeting that as far as the legislation was concerned, no resignation from the VEC became valid until the next meeting of the committee after the letter of resignation had been received. He called for his party colleague Cllr Rose Conway Walsh to be appointed to the position as she was the only female candidate to be voted on at the meeting in March, where Cllr John O’Hara was appointed to the seat. Because of the nature of gender quotas on the VEC, following the election of Dep Michelle Mulherin to the Dáil her seat on the VEC had to be filled by a woman. However former Castlebar town councillor Kevin Guthrie resigned his seat on the VEC, creating two vacancies. The Mayo County Council seat was filled by Cllr John O’Hara after it was voted on in the chamber, leaving Castlebar Town Council to fill the female seat on the VEC. Cllr Murray told the meeting that Guthrie’s resignation did not become valid until the first meeting of the VEC after the resignation was received. This was not until after the last meeting of Mayo County Council in March when Cllr O’Hara was appointed. However when asked by the Cathaoirleach if Cllr O’Hara’s appointment was valid, county secretary John Condon told the meeting it was. Last night’s meeting of Castlebar Town Council had an item on the agenda to fill the seat left on the VEC, and reports suggest that Sinn Féin councillor Therese Ruane will be appointed by the town council to fill the seat thus balancing the gender requirements laid down in the legislation.