Tension among Tramore’s Town Councillors is set to linger over the summer after stern words were again exchanged regarding the Fine Gael/Labour pact which one Councillor described as ‘a breach of faith’.
Speaking at Tuesday night’s meeting, Fine Gael’s Anne Marie Power launched a stinging attack on Independent Councillor Joe Conway, whom, she claimed, had “vilified” her party through comments made to the print media.
Regarding the different positions which Cllr Conway held in relation to pacts at Town and County Council level, Cllr Power accused Cllr Conway of “deliberately withholding the truth from the people of Tramore”.
Cllr Power said that Cllr Conway had “purposely non-disclosed the truth” of his discussions with the Fine Gael group in relation to pact negotiations, querying: “are you totally against pacts?”
Reflecting on the tempestuous conclusion to Tuesday’s meeting, Cllr Conway stated: “A few facts were torched in the sulphurous arena of the Council Chamber.”
Cllr Conway asserted that at no time had he concealed the negotiating positions he had taken with Fine Gael at both Town and County Council level following the June 5th election.
And having asked Cllr Conway to withdraw comments which he had made since the formation of the new pact in Tramore, Cllr Power, unsurprisingly, didn’t get the response she was looking for.
“I heard your request with interest but I’m not in the slightest way inclined to withdraw what I said,” the Tramore poll-topper stated.
“The vast majority of the people that I have met in the last few weeks would agree with what I said. People are very disgusted with what has happened.”
The debate’s origins are rooted in a unanimous vote taken by the previous Council in April that during the newly elected Council’s term, the five highest vote earners would each serve as Mayor.
This vote, now referred to as ‘The McCartan Principles’ in recognition of former Councillor Jimmy McCartan who proposed the system, was seconded by Cllr Power and also supported by Cllrs O’Callaghan and Lola O’Sullivan.
But come last month’s inaugural meeting of new Council, all three adopted a new position, given the Council’s new composition, which saw Fine Gael and Labour’s combined number coming to five seats out of nine.
The source of much public disquiet was channelled through a petition, signed by approximately 300 locals, which was handed into Council offices before Tuesday’s meeting.
Seeking to close the book on the issue, Mayor Paddy O’Callaghan ruled any debate on the petition out of order; informing Councillors that he’d be sending the document onto the Department of the Environment.
Reading from the petition, Mayor O’Callaghan dismissed the claim that the Fine Gael/Labour pact had “made a mockery” of the democratic rights of the petition’s signatories.
“These people,” he said, “either read or heard the news wrongly”. He added: “I’m not going to allow it [as a matter for debate] – it’s over as far as I’m concerned”.
Further controversy arose when the petition, which had been available for public signing in the Red Lane boutique at The Cross, was ‘borrowed’ by Fine Gael Councillor Tom Raine.
Boutique proprietor Catherine Keighery told The Munster Express that both she and Cllr Raine had shared “a heated conversation because we were both passionate about the topic we were discussing”.
She added: “I would like to make it absolutely clear that Cllr Raine was in no way aggressive to me during our discussion. He was very polite throughout our conversation – it just so happened that we had diverging views on the topic in question.”
In the wake of the petition controversy, it is understood that several dozen more individuals came forward with the intention of signing the document but in its absence were the denied the opportunity to so do.
Cllr Conway said that any attempts made by those who had reversed their positions since the April meeting were “unacceptable”.
An angry Tramore voter told this newspaper: “The Councillors that went back on what they agreed in April can say what they like and dress it up whatever way they want. They think that people in Tramore are stupid and that they’ve pulled the wool over our eyes. Well they haven’t.”
Meanwhile, the long-awaited resurfacing of the infamously rough section of the R675 Waterford-Tramore Road is due to commence next week, much to the relief of suspension-conscious motorists.
However, Area Engineer Jane O’Neill told Councillors that any sustained rainfall ahead of the planned two-day project would “put the works back slightly”. Or, as Mayor O’Callaghan put it: “It’s all down to rain or no rain.”