This morning at 11am, a vastly changed Mayo County Council will meet for the first time since the election and the speculation that has been raging for almost two weeks now over who exactly will hold political sway in the county for the next five years will finally be put to bed.
As this paper was going to print yesterday (Thursday ), negotiations were still ongoing between the political parties and Independents and were expected to continue until late last night, possibly even the early hours of this morning.
Neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fáil were able to give a definite answer on what type of power sharing arrangement they expect to enter into until each respective party met last night to hammer out the final details and agree a deal.
Both parties hold 10 seats each. The final third of the 30 seats on the authority are divided between seven Independents and three Sinn Féin members - an unprecedented situation in local politics in Mayo.
Sinn Féin look the most unlikely to be a part of any power sharing agreement.
Ballyhaunis representative John Cribben, chairman of the Fine Gael group in Mayo County Council, ruled out an arrangement between his party and Sinn Féin, saying it was not an option that was under consideration in yesterday’s negotiations.
Cllr Damien Ryan, from Ballinrobe, is the chairperson of the Fianna Fáil group.
He said all options were still on the table but the preconditions that Sinn Féin were setting out would be “hard for any party to work with”.
That leaves two options for each party. They can either power share together or both attempt to cobble together a group of Independents to get the necessary numbers to gain control of the chamber.
Cllr Cribben said it was “a strange election with strange results” but that is the political reality they are now facing in Mayo County Council.
“I think the word going forward now has to be stability,” he added.
Cllr Cribben pointed out that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil shared power before on Mayo County Council from 1991 to 1999 and they “worked well together”.
He added that an agreement with Independents would possibly be the least stable option.
“I say this with the utmost of respect. They are all elected and they all have a mandate from the people but they have political baggage. They were all members of political parties who then went their seperate ways.”
Cllr Ryan was similarly concerned with ensuring the stability of any arrangement.
“There is no clear decision made yet but there is an obligation on all of us, as councillors, to be proactive in ensuring progress and stability within the council,” he said. “No-one is in any stronger or weaker of a postition than we are and both parties will be looking at the options before them.”
Independent Cllr Michael Kilcoyne said Fianna Fáil would “get savaged” if they entered into an agreement with Fine Gael.
“Fine Gael lost six seats. The people have voted for change. That is clear,” he said. “Fianna Fáil supporting Fine Gael would be not be change.”
Cllr Kilcoyne and four other independents - Gerry Ginty (Ballina ); Christy Hyland (Westport ); Richard Finn (Claremorris ); and Michael Holmes (Belmullet ) - have put together a proposal to support Fianna Fáil.
He rejected any notion that this would not be a stable agreement.
“We regard ourselves as five solid Independents. If we say we will do something, we will honour it,” he said.
The annual general meeting of Mayo County Council begins at 11am this morning in Áras an Contae, Castlebar.