UNEASE has again surfaced within sections of Fine Gael about the party’s coalition pact with Fianna Fail on Limerick City and County Council.
The outcome of last month’s council meeting in which Fianna Fail proposed and won a 3% cut in the property tax against the wishes of Fine Gael has left a sour taste.
But now, party members and councillors are, according to one senior party source, “apoplectic” about the presence of Cathaoirleach Kevin Sheahan, Fianna Fail, at last Saturday’s anti-water tax protest in Limerick.
The issue will be on the agenda for the Fine Gael party meeting this Friday, Cllr John Sheahan, the party’s leader in the council, confirmed this Wednesday. And while he conceded that party people were “annoyed”, he said it would be a “stretch” to suggest that it had put a strain on the Fine Gael/Fianna Fail coalition on Limerick City and County Council.
However, he added: “He has made things awkward. It is not helpful to the relationship.
“I have no problem with him,” Cllr Sheahan continued. “Kevin Sheahan can do handstands in the middle of the street as Cllr Kevin Sheahan but I would ask him to clarify what his position is. Was he there in his capacity as Cathaoirleach or as a councillor? If it is the latter, he is entitled to do that. Or was he representing the people of Limerick city and county? We need to distinguish between the two.
“Was he speaking as Cathaoirleach or as a councillor? And is it fitting for the holder of an office like that to give the impression that it is not OK to pay water charges?”
Cllr Sheahan said it was his understanding that Kevin Sheahan had issued a press statement about the march via the cathaoirleach’s office.
“The other question I would ask is did he march with the blessing of the CEO?”
Fianna Fail leader in the council, Cllr Michael Collins, told the Limerick Leader he had attended a party leaders’ meeting this Wednesday which was also attended by Cllr John Sheahan and the Cathaoirleach and nothing had been said.
But he continued: “I don’t see what the problem is.”
Cllr Kevin Sheahan was entitled to march in the protest, he said.
“I can’t see why Fine Gael are creating a problem because Kevin Sheahan made a stand. He is only representing those who voted for him.”
“When we formed the coalition on the council it was stated quite clearly that if we (FF) had an issue with the Government, we could acto on it ourselves and that would have no effect on our coalition. The water charge is a national issue.
“My view is we shouldn’t be paying water charges right now given the state of the economy. But it is the law of the land and I am not going to break that law. That doesn’t mean I am not going to try and oppose it and get it changed,” Cllr Collins said.
Talks are about to begin between the two parties shortly about the 2015 budget, which will be voted on in early January.