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Question over sale of Junction 17 land leads to row and Council adjournment following ‘issue with women’ jibe

Laois County Council General

On Monday, members of Laois County Council voted to put through the sale of 3.42 hectares at Portlaoise Enterprise Park to Kirby Group Engineering for €1,060,200.

After this was agreed, Sinn Fein Councillor Caroline Dwane-Stanley tried to raise an issue surrounded another unnamed party who ‘believed they were getting the site’.

However, Cathaoirleach Conor Bergin, of Fien Gael, intervened and asked Cllr Dwane-Stanley not to pursue the matter in a public meeting citing concerns over ‘commercial sensitivity’.

Cllr Dwane-Stanley disputed this and asked where in legislation was she prevented from raising this matter.

When Cathaoirleach Bergin continued to insist that Cllr Dwane-Stanley desist, Cllr Dwane-Stanley said that he ‘was making it up as you go along’.

This drew clapping from Fine Gael Cllr Aisling Moran in support of Cllr Dwane-Stanley, but Cathaoirleach Bergin said that this action was a violation of standing orders as ‘you are not allowed clap in the chamber’.

Cllr Dwane-Stanley and Cllr Moran then asserted that Cathaoirleach Bergin was not being fair as chairman and was allowing other members of the chamber to speak uninterrupted and treating others differently.

The bickering continued with Cathaoirleach Bergin initially proposing that Cllr Moran be removed from the Chamber.

It was at that point that Cllr Moran said to Cllr Bergin, ‘I think you have an issue with women’.

This comment left the Cathaoirleach incensed and he adjourned the meeting for ten minutes.

When he returned, Cllr Moran withdrew her comment and then other members of the chamber spoke in favour of Cllr Bergin.

Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald said: “I have never known Laois County Council or you Cathaoirleach to be anti-women.”

While Cllr Thomasina Connell said: “I know you a long time Cllr Bergin and that is certainly not who you are. I cannot believe that comment was said.”

Cathaoirleach Bergin said that this wasn’t about him and he was trying to ensure the meeting was carried out in an orderly fashion and followed proper proceedings.

When everyone had calmed down, Director of Services Gerry Murphy spoke about the issue which had started the furore in the first place.

He said: “A site has been identified for the other party who were interested in this particular site.

“I do not believe there will be an issue here.”

Cllr Dwane Stanley welcomed this. She said: “Thank you Gerry I appreciate that.

“As the Technical Group (Sinn Fein, Labour and Independents) do not have representation on the Council’s Corporate Policy Group as we are blocked by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, I was not aware of this.

“That is why I had to raise this issue here at this meeting because I have no other way of doing so.”

SEE ALSO – Jobs on the way to Laois after Council agrees to sell Junction 17 land for more than €1 million

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.