County councillors agreed to send Donegal Mayor, Labour Cllr. Frank McBrearty Jr., to Boston this weekend for a celebration of the centenary of former US Speaker of the House, Thomas P Tip O’Neill, but not before a discussion that revisited earlier disagreements about mayors travelling on public money.
At the council’s reconvened November meeting on Tuesday, some councillors also suggested that the council should consider resuming the traditional St. Patrick’s Day trips to New York and Philadelphia that stopped two years ago.
Mayor McBrearty was part of the Donegal delegation that travelled to Boston last month, for the Boston-Northwest Golden Bridges conference and a series of meetings with leaders in the business, education, community and renewable sectors.
Fianna Fáil councillors, while crediting the work the mayor and the Donegal delegation accomplished in Boston, questioned whether the taxpayer would benefit from a second trip within a month. They also pointed out that non-Fianna Fáil councillors had voted against sending two Fianna Fáil councillors to New York and Philadelphia in 2009, when then-Mayor, Cllr. Brendan Byrne, and deputy mayor, then-Cllr. Charlie McConalogue, paid for the trip themselves.
Deputy Mayor, Labour Cllr. Martin Farren, said it would be a great honour for Mayor McBrearty to be invited back and said, “I think you should accept – you should be there representing us.” Independent Cllr. Ian McGarvey seconded the proposal.
Fianna Fáil Cllr. Liam Blaney said he was not suggesting the mayor should not go, but said, “I don’t see the benefit in going back a second time.” He said if the mayor felt there was a benefit, he should pay for the trip himself.
Councillors voted 9-4 to send Mayor McBrearty to the O’Neill centenary, with Fianna Fáil voting against and Sinn Féin councillors Jack Murray and Mick Quinn and independent Cllr. John Campbell abstaining.
During a presentation on the trip to councillors, Mayor McBrearty said he had been invited by Thomas O’Neill, Tip O’Neill’s son, and his wife, to attend ceremonies to mark the centenary of Tip O’Neill’s birth on Dec. 9th at the Kennedy Library. Thomas O’Neill and members of the O’Neill family were in Buncrana in September for the inaugural Tip O’Neill Donegal Diaspora Award.