In as emphatic terms as they possibly could say it last Monday a number of councillors from the West Mayo Municipal District said they would not stand for the area not having a stand alone director of services to look after the area when an upcoming reshuffle and appointment of two new full time directors of services is completed by Mayo County Council.
Currently Mayo County Council has three full-time directors of services, Paddy Mahon who looks after the Castlebar and Claremorris Municipal Districts, Joe Lofus who is the director of services for corporate affairs, and Peter Duggan who is the head of finance for the council. There are two acting directors of services, Paul Benson who looks after the Ballina Municipal District and Martin Keating who looks after the West Mayo Municipal District. A recruitment campaign is nearing an end to fill the two acting posts on a full time basis.
Independent councillor Christy Hyland asked at Monday's meeting of the council: "What's the position regarding the director of services in West Mayo, because we have an acting one at the moment?" Council chief executive, Peter Hynes, responded: "We have two vacancies in this county at the moment, there is a national recruitment campaign that is being organised and run under the auspices of the Public Appointment Service, they had 400 odd applications which they shortlisted to 200, they have interviewed on two panels and they are in the process of contacting the successful candidates and making offers to them, when those offers are accepted we will be notified and it will be a matter for the local authority to make the appointments, there are two vacancies in this county." Cllr Hyland asked if there was one for Ballina and one for West Mayo. The chief executive replied: "There are two vacancies in this county, where they go is a matter for the management to figure out where they are deployed, depending on who they are and where they will be deployed and where they will be needed."
Fianna Fáil councillor Brendan Mulroy was not satisfied with that response and said: "Just to say that West Mayo is 91 miles long and the speculation in the press is indicating that West Mayo will be put in with another area for a director of services. Now we are very lucky in the area in the way it is being served by our director of services, through Martin Keating, and he's our director of services in relation to that constituency. Anyone will tell you that it's very hard, if we're going to be put in with the likes of Castlebar or Ballina. I just want to flag straight away that that will not be happening. I'm totally opposed to that." He continued: "I do have a difficulty with the speculation that is mounting today and is mounting as we are sitting here, going by social media, that West Mayo will be put in with another area. The chief executive might not want to speculate on that now, but I want to make my situation clear on that, as an elected representative it's not possible for West Mayo to be put in with another area, and I'm sure every other area will have their own say on that. But as an elected representative for West Mayo, I stand by that and I'm sure my colleagues in the area do too. They won't be happy with our director being shared with any other constituecny. I want to make that clear."
Fine Gael councillor Gerry Coyle contributed saying: "I agree with the point, it's a very difficult area that goes from Belderrig to Lenanne, it's extremely tough terrain. It has been managed extremely well." He also added: "I would not like to see the area being shared with another area, it's a huge onerous task as it is and has been managed very well previously."
Cllr Hyland came back into the debate and asked the chief executive, "What I want to know is, is a director of services going to be appointed full time to West Mayo Municipal District?" To which Mr Hynes responded: "It's a question I can't answer for you Councillor at this time."
Replying to the chief executive's response, Cllr Mulroy said: "It's 91 miles long, as the Cathoirleach will tell you it takes nearly 96 or 97 days to canvas that whole area, we've a population of nearly 30,000 people which is akin to Leitrim which is a county. Under no circumstances, I can't be any clearer on this and my own colleagues and whatever action we have to take on this, West Mayo is entitled to its director of services, specifically for its 91 miles and 30,000 people."
A number of other councillors also spoke in support of West Mayo maintaining a director of services, before the Cathaoirleach, Cllr Michael Holmes, had the last say on the issue, saying: "It's obviously an issue that could resurface, it's not on the agenda today, but it could be a problem and an issue. I'm 45 years involved in public life, we can talk about rumours and talk about speculation and things in the paper, sometimes you have to believe it and sometimes you don't have believe it. But never in my 45 years did I get as much anger from the people on the ground as I have this last fortnight, right across the county, I have never, ever, ever encountered it. I will tell you as Cathaoirleach I'm going to get to the truth of this, and I'm not suggesting for one second, I'm not being told the truth here today. But believe me. I'll put up with any situation if I'm told the facts and it's made clear to me, but there is serious anger raging through this county and there's a lot of quietness here today, and a lot of people remaining quiet and I thank them for that."