The election by Tramore Town Council on Monday night of Pat O’Callaghan (Labour) as Mayor was facilitated by three members backtracking on a decision of the Council made only two months ago.
Two councillors walked out of the annual meeting in protest as the new Mayor himself, along with Fine Gael’s Ann Marie Power and Lola O’Sullivan, set aside an April decision favouring election of the First Citizen by the people, as reflected in local election voting. That meeting decided unanimously to recommend to the incoming Council a system whereby, through its five year term, the top five vote-getters would each be honoured with the Mayoralty.
But after poll-topper Joe Conway, in accordance with that recommendation, was proposed and seconded by fellow Independents Blaise Hannigan and Pat Finnerty, Fine Gael’s Ann Marie Power and Lola O’Sullivan proposed and seconded Cllr O’Callaghan. And a pact between Cllr O’Callaghan and Fine Gael’s four members ensured that he got the post by five votes to four, with Joe O’Shea (FF) supporting Cllr Conway.
Furthermore, it can now be safely assumed that the Fine Gael councillors – Power, O’Sullivan, Maxine Keoghan and 19-year-old Tom Raine – will share the Mayoralty between them through the next four years. They will also no doubt dominate the position of Deputy Mayor, starting with Cllr O’Sullivan who was elected on the proposition of Cllr Power, seconded by Cllr Raine.
Cllr Hannigan left the meeting, as he said beforehand he would do if the April recommendation wasn’t implemented. “To my mind this is undemocratic and a total joke”, he said of the about-turn by Cllrs O’Callaghan, Power and O’Sullivan. “You have let Tramore and its people down by ignoring their wishes”, he accused. Standing up to go, he assured the new Mayor however that he would “recognise” him at future meetings.
Later on, Cllr Finnerty also left the room, protesting that those involved in the pact were flying in the face of the electorate who, he maintained, were fully aware of the McCartan Principles when they cast their votes on June 5 (it was ousted Independent councillor James McCartan who made the April proposal, which was seconded by Ann Marie Power).
He challenged the Mayor, who has twice previously held the position, and Cllrs Power and O’Sullivan, who are also County Council members, as to whether they were about to involve themselves in a pact within that body too “and leave East Waterford with a lesser share of resources” (compared to the West).
Cllr Conway said he was more disappointed by the breach of faith on the part of some councillors with the people of the town than by any personal considerations. He wished the Mayor well for the coming year.
Regarding the controversy over the method of electing the Mayor he remarked that given a choice between being the darling of a political party and reviled by the people, or vice versa, he knew which would be his preference.
Before proposing Cllr O’Callaghan, Cllr Power said she and her Fine Gael colleagues had considered the April recommendation but having fleshed out “the statutory variables germane to the election of the new Mayor” it was decided, as that was simply a recommendation and not legally binding, to proceed as they were doing. While the April decision was made in good faith, she considered it would be unfair to tie the hands of the new Council, with all its first-time members.
She said she had no doubt the resort would benefit from Cllr O’Callaghan’s term as Mayor. He was a perfect gentleman who had the wisdom of experience which he would utilise for Tramore’s betterment.
The new Mayor spoke of the need to push the town forward, particularly in terms of tourism and job-creating business generally. But he felt it was indicative of neglect on the part of the County Council that at a time when that body was advocating water conservation, four major leaks in the town’s supply system had not been repaired long after they were first reported. He also called for footpath improvements along the route of one of his pet projects, Sli na Slainte.
The Mayor, a regular Town Council representative on the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland, was elected again to that post along with Maxine Keoghan. That was after Cllr Conway, who announced that he would attend the association’s meetings at his own expense, pinpointed the need to select people who would report back from what was a vital organ of local democracy, particularly as the Council’s participation would cost about €20,000 in expenses over its five-year term. Cllr Raine is to attend some of the association’s meetings also, as a learning experience.
The Mayor and Cllr Raine are to represent the Town Council on the County Council’s Area Committee, while Cllr Raine is also to be the Council’s representative on the County Development Board.
Cllrs Raine, Keoghan, Hannigan and O’Shea were appointed to the County Council’s four SPCs – Culture and Heritage, Environment and Planning, Housing, Corporate Affairs and Emergency Services and Tranpsport and Infrastructure, respectively.