The distribution by Waterford City Council pact members of lucrative positions among themselves has been likened by a councillor not involved to “a feeding frenzy on a pig farm – without a trough”.
The stinging attack came from longstanding member Davy Walsh of The Workers Party following a Council meeting on Monday evening at which the eleven pact participants shared between them 46 out of 50 available posts.
The appointments included representation on the South East Regional Authority, the Associations of Municipal Authorities of Ireland and of City and County Councils, Regional Health Forum, City Enterprise Board and Waterford Airport plc.
There are also chairmanships of five Strategic Policy Committees, each of which pays €6,000 a year.
Cllr Walsh said the pact group, comprising four Fine Gael members, three Labour and four of the five Independents, met beforehand to divvy out the “goodies”. Then, he said, they entered the Chamber and went through the formality of proposing and seconding each other for a succession of posts. He said that even in his absence, Cllr Cha O’Neill was looked after.
“Furthermore”, he pointed out, “this group is now committed to passing the end-of-year financial estimates, irrespective of what they contain”.
He said that for his thirty years on the Council he had been watching similar “carry-on” and it amounted to a negation of democracy.
And the Council’s sole WP representative had a cut at Sinn Fein colleague David Cullinane, claiming that he reneged on an agreement to surrender chairmanship of the Environment SPC, to him, for the final six months of the old Council. He maintained that he, Cllr Cullinane and Cllr John Halligan, now Mayor, had agreed to rotate the position through the five year term of the last Council. He was to get one year and the others two each but when Cllr Cullinane’s two years were done he asked for an extension of six months, to which Cllr Walsh agreed.
“He was to resign last January and make way for me but he refused to do so”, said Cllr Walsh.
He added that in the course of talks between Cllr Cullinane and newly elected Independent Dick Roche, the former offered to propose him (Cllr Walsh) for Mayor, but he was not interested in becoming “a sacrificial lamb” and declined.
Besides, he wasn’t interested in entering negotiations with the Sinn Fein representative because he didn’t trust him on account of what happened over the SPC chair.
Responding, Cllr Cullinane said the difficulty over the SPC chair was between Cllr Walsh and his former WP colleague Cllr Halligan (now Independent). “If they are having disagreements I don’t want to get involved”, he said.
Furthermore, he pointed out, he had just one post out of all those filled on Monday, but he was not “crying” about that. “What people want is for politicians to do their work, cooperating where possible, and not squabbling among themselves over appointments to this, that or the other”.
As for Cllr Walsh’s assertion that he was not prepared to enter into negotiations with Cllr Cullinane, the Sinn Fein man said he could put the lie to that because the fact of the matter was that they were negotiating until 4.50 on Monday, ten minutes before the start of the Council meeting.
“I was unhappy with what was on offer and withdrew”, he stated.
Of the four posts not held by the pact eleven, Cllr Cullinane retained his chairmanship of the Environment SPC, one of three appointments to the Theatre Royal Committee was given to Cllr Walsh (also outgoing), along with a position on Waterford City VEC and another place on that body went to Fianna Fail’s lone Council member, Gary Wyse.
Cllr Roche was the only member not to get a position – he was proposed by Cllr Walsh for a couple but was left to second himself and got no additional support.