Fianna Fáil Cllr. Brendan Byrne said he will not apologise for accusing Fine Gael of hypocrisy after Monday’s council meeting, when Donegal’s mayor raised the issue of a St. Patrick’s Day trip abroad for the mayor and deputy mayor after the meeting ended.
Donegal Mayor, Fine Gael Cllr. Noel McBride said that his purpose in raising the issue was to inform members that he and the deputy mayor would pay for any travel they would take at St. Patrick’s Day, but Cllr. Byrne said that during the post-meeting commotion a Fine Gael councillor had proposed that the council carry the cost.
“That happened in the presence of myself and other councillors,” Cllr. Byrne said. “It was objected to by Sinn Féin councillors, and rightly so.” Cllr. Byrne said Fine Gael Cllr. Bernard McGuinness had made the proposal. Cllr. McGuinness could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Mayor McBride said he had not heard Cllr. McGuinness make any such proposal, though he allowed that it could have been made. “A lot of people were talking at one particular time,” he said.
But the mayor said, “The meeting was closed, so any proposal made at that particular stage, from whoever it was, was not a valid proposal and I think Cllr. Byrne knows that.”
Sinn Féin Cllr. Marie Therese Gallagher was the first to object to the issue being raised after the meeting ended.
“If they were going to pay for it themselves, that would be my question for the mayor and deputy mayor: Why didn’t they say that when I was challenging the statement that it’s tradition?” Cllr. Gallagher said. “Why not say then that they were paying for it themselves? That would have shut me up.”
Cllr. Byrne said that when he was mayor in 2010 and the council voted against paying for the St. Patrick’s Day trip, Fine Gael cited value for money and the economic downturn in their decision. “There could be no argument given by anyone that could merit sending the mayor of the day now to America,” Cllr. Byrne said, adding that it would be “an act of hypocrisy” to pay for the mayor’s trip this year.
Mayor McBride said that was never the issue. He said he intended to tell councillors that he and the deputy mayor would pay their own way if they went abroad. He said he also wanted to suggest they travel to Canada because of the relationship the council is developing with the Donegal diaspora there.
But the mayor said that when other councillors interrupted him on Monday, he stopped talking. “I thought, right, I’ll just leave it,” he said.
He said he will put the issue on the February agenda, to discuss where a trip should be made. But he said any trip would come at no expense to the county.
Read more in today’s Donegal Democrat.