A war of words erupted this morning when it emerged that Cllr John King is to serve a second term as chairman of the Borris-in-Ossory/Mountmellick Municipal District.
At the municipal district’s AGM, Cllr King appeared to be re-elected unopposed initially.
Cllr James Kelly then questioned why Cllr King was taking up the role for a second year, when Cllr David Goodwin had been elected as vice-chair the previous year.
Responding, Cllr Goodwin said there was an agreement that the Fine Gael party would chair the group for two years. “I have no need to be chairman of this municipal authority. I have enough to do. I practically live in the council. It is a pleasure to come in and see the staff several times a day,” he said.
“I have been a councillor for forty years. I don’t do the chair,” he said.
The electorate gave independent candidates 30 per cent of the vote, Cllr Brendan Phelan said. He said two out of the six councillors for the area are independent. “Their vote is being totally disregarded,” he said.
He said he didn’t believe when people were voting that they realised the chairperson positions of the municipal authority would be divided out between the main parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, in a confidence and supply arrangement.
“If you have an arrangement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael then the next time you should go before the electorate with it,” he said, to give people a choice.
“If you are going before the people again, you should go together as a group,” Cllr Phelan said.
“The decision shouldn’t be made a few hours after an election in a private house,” he said of the arrangement which carves up the plum positions on the council.
He said he had told the electorate he was running as an independent candidate.
As well as the honour of serving as chairperson, there is also an additional allowance for those who serve in the role.
The agreement on who would serve in what roles was made after the local elections, Cllr Paddy Bracken said. “It’s a confidence and cry situation,” Cllr Bracken said of the reaction.
“Are you not aware of what’s going to happen next year?” Cllr King asked Cllr Phelan. “It’s terrible to be in the dark,” he added.
Cllr Kelly believed it was “unfair” that Cllr King should have two terms in the municipal chair and will also serve a term as chairman of Laois County Council.
“Myself and Cllr Phelan got a third of the vote but not once have we been given the honour of chairing a meeting,” he said.
“You have to take the rough with the smooth,” Cllr Goodwin said.
Some of the independents will chair the special policy committees (SPCs) Cllr Bracken said.
“That’s Statutory,” Cllr Phelan replied, and was laid down by the Department of Environment so the major parties couldn’t dominate those positions, also.
A vote then ensued, after it appeared that Cllr King had already been appointed. Cllr King defeated Cllr Phelan by 4 votes to 2, with himself and Cllrs Goodwin (FG), Bracken (FF) and McDonald (FF) voting in his favour with the two independent candidates voting for Phelan.
A vote for the vice-chair followed along identical lines with Cllr Bracken defeating Cllr Kelly.