Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s commitment to his home town of Castlebar and County Mayo has been questioned by a local Fianna Fáil councillor leading to a war of words, and the threat of a punch up between two elected members of Castlebar town council, on the local airwaves.
Cllr Blackie Gavin’s comments at a recent meeting of Mayo VEC escalated and led to an exchange of words between him and Deputy Kenny’s personal assistant Castlebar town councillor Ger Deere on CRCfm’s Saturday Forum last weekend.
During the debate Cllr Gavin, obviously sensitive to criticisms directed at him in the wake of the VEC Headquarters being appointed to Castlebar, threatened to punch Cllr Deere, saying: “Just as well I’m over this side of the house with Johnny Mee and James Laffey between us, because I tell you one thing, one punch and I’d have you out that door.”
Cllr Gavin was questioning Deputy Kenny’s commitment to Castlebar, saying he was afraid the town would lose the VEC headquarters. He claimed people were waiting for Dep Kenny to ‘do’ something for Castlebar. “He is doing nothing but going around raising green flags and opening extensions. It’s time something was done for Castlebar,” he stated.
Cllr Gavin also referred to the Castlebar IDA Park which lies empty while jobs are being announced for other parts of the country.
When it was pointed out to him that the decision was made to keep the VEC HQ in the county town he responded: “I’m delighted and it’s about time but it’s only since I raised it on the Thursday, over the weekend an awful lot seems to have happened,” claiming the controversy he created led to the decision being made.
“The headquarters is delivered. Cllr Gavin made his remarks on a Thursday. He has more power than anyone if he thinks it was delivered because of the controversy,” was Cllr Deere’s slightly bemused reply, before Cllr Gavin threatened to punch him.
He then said that the Taoiseach has 30 councillors in Mayo keeping him informed of local goings on, and added that he has no say over the events he is invited to. In response to a claim by Cllr Gavin that the Tullamore Industrial Park is ‘buzzing’ yet the Castlebar park lies empty, Cllr Deere said Dep Kenny is only six months in power while Brian Cowen was a minister for 14 years. “Castlebar will get its equal share if things are in place,” Cllr Deere added.
Joining the debate retired town and county councillor Johnny Mee, a member of the Labour party, said it was in fact Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn who had the final say on the VEC headquarters, adding that local councillor Harry Barrett had made representations on behalf of Castlebar to Minister Quinn. He also advised Cllr Gavin not to be too sensitive to criticism before highlighting the N5 between Westport and Castlebar and on to Bohola as one project that the Taoiseach should pursue