Tensions between parties in Donegal County Council look set to continue following last week’s heated scenes in the council chamber, writes Declan Magee.
Fine Gael mayor Noel McBride is seeking to bring together the whips from the different parties to discuss preventing a repeat of scenes which disrupted last month’s council meeting. But Fianna Fail’s whip, Cllr. Ciaran Brogan, has accused the mayor of not being partial at last month’s meeting and wants a meeting of the full council in front of council officials.
Fianna Fail Councillor Ciaran Brogan, said he will be meeting with his party’s ten other councillors before attending the mayor’s meeting.
The mayor has written to the whips inviting them to meet to address conduct among councillors later this week or on Monday. Fianna Fail councillors are due to have their own meeting following last week’s scenes tomorrow.
The February meeting of the council was described by veteran Fianna Fáil councillor Sean McEniff as the worst he had witnessed in 50 years on the council. The meeting had to be adjourned at one point and there were accusations of threats and intimidation. The mayor has been accused of losing control of the meeting and of not being partial.
The meeting was the latest in a series of disruptive meetings which have cast a shadow over this term of the council which began in 2009.
Now at the half way stage the behaviour of members in the chamber has overshadowed several meetings in recent and has become a serious issue. Heated debates regularly result in raised voices with embers on their feet and adjournments to allow tempers to cool have become a more common feature.
The last meetings saw clashes between members of all groupings The last mayor of the council - Sin Fein’s Cora Harvey - had to write to member’s to remind them of the council’s rules on conduct. She threatened to use her powers to have members removed from the chamber following a number of disrupted meetings.
Fine Gael’s Barry O’Neill, Fianna Fáil’s Ciaran Brogan, Mick Quinn of Sinn Féin, the Labour Party’s Frank McBrearty and Ian McGarvey representing the independent grouping have been invited to attend the meeting.
The Fianna Fail stance casts doubts on whether the mayor’s approach will work. Cllr. Brogan said the mayor was not partial and carried on the meeting despite a motion to adjourn it that was seconded. “He has a duty to be impartial. I did not think he was last week. I think there should be a full meeting of the council and the executive should be there to issue the guidelines on conduct.”
The mayor said he hoped that matters will be resolved during the meeting when he intends to put a set of proposals to the party whips. He said he was not prepared to respond to claims from other councillors.“It is a day I want to forget and I don’t want the like to happen again,” he said. “I don’t want to open up old wounds. I am going to give a response. I have been accused and I am not going to fight back. I respect the members and unfortunately on the day they did not respect my position. If they had what happened would not have happened.”
He said the code of conduct for councillors is clear and must be abided by. “We have been elected to do a job for and on behalf of the people of Donegal and we need to get back to basics and get on with the job we were elected to do. We need to get ourselves focused and get on with the job that we were elected to do. Hopefully at our next meeting it will be fixed and everyone will have settled down.”