A ROW has broken out between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in Newcastle West over the chairmanship of Limerick County Council’s local area committee, with Fine Gael being accused of reneging on an unwritten agreement to share the position across both parties.
Earlier this month Cllr Liam Galvin of Fine Gael was elected as chairman of the committee for the coming year, succeeding his party colleague, council Cathaoirleach Cllr Jerome Scanlan.
However the vote has been strongly criticised by Fianna Fail councillor Michael Collins, who accused Fine Gael of taking a partisan decision to hold on to the largely symbolic role.
Fine Gael councillors have rejected this assertion, simply stating that they have a majority and have decided to use it.
Cllr Collins said that a “gentlemen’s agreement” to rotate the chair – a non-remunerated position which carries only symbolic value – between councillors in the Newcastle West area regardless of their party dates back to 2004.
He said that he had hoped that either he or his party colleague, Cllr Francis Foley, would have been given an opportunity to hold the chair for the coming year, following on from this practice. He said that he is “disappointed” that this is not the case.
“A local area committee is never contentious or political. Occasionally if there’s an issue over funding there’d be a bit of sparring, when I’d give out about the Government. But it was the same when Fianna Fail were in power. In the main, it’s not political. I just think it’s down to [Fine Gael} being uncooperative, which is ridiculous.”
However Cllr Collins’ criticism was rejected by Cllr Galvin, who said that no such agreement was ever in place, and that Fine Gael are “entitled” to exercise their three-to-two majority in the Newcastle West area.
“I can tell you straight out, there was never, ever an agreement. At the time in 2004, we were five newly elected councillors, and we decided to share the chair amongst ourselves. A lot has changed. We have the majority, and we felt that we were entitled to keep the chair. There’s no monetary benefit to this, we haven’t done it for financial gain. Fine Gael have worked hard, and we feel this is our reward”.
Cllr Galvin’s comments were echoed by his party colleague Cllr Damien Riedy.
“We have a majority, and we voted in Liam Galvin. Next year, I will do the exact same thing, and will be voting with my party”.