Cathaoirleach, Cllr. Gerry McMonagle
There was further heated debate this morning at the meeting of Donegal County Council over legal advice in relation to last week’s disputed election to Údarás na Gaeltachta.
As the meeting continues today, the election last week of Sinn Féin Cllr. John Sheamais Ó Fearraigh to the board of Údarás na Gaeltachta stands.
However, the decision was strongly criticised by members of Fianna Fáil and other independent councillors who said they had voted for Fianna Fáil Cllr. Seamus Ó Domhnaill to take the Údarás seat at the council meeting last week.
Before the meeting continued to other business, Cllr Ó Domhnaill said, “I think this will have to go to another day.” He said he had put the cathaoirleach on notice that if there were not a further vote the matter would be “revisited on another forum”.
The council cathaoirleach, Cllr. Gerry McMonagle, adjourned the reconvened September meeting for 15 minutes this morning, following repeated interruptions by Fianna Fáil councillors as he tried to move on to the next agenda item.
During discussion of the legal advice at the meeting this morning, Fianna Fáil councillors proposed a second vote on the Údarás appointment. They also proposed a vote on whether there should be a second vote.
The council cathaoirleach, Cllr. Gerry McMonagle, did not call for action on either proposal. Cllr. McMonagle, said the council had received “quite clear and conclusive legal advice” on the matter and he was moving on to the next item on the agenda.
In the council debate this morning, Fianna Fáil Cllr. Ciaran Brogan had said there was “a huge cloud” over last week’s vote.“Members of this chamber should be afforded the opportunity of a second vote here today, and I’m formally proposing that, cathaoirleach,” Cllr. Brogan said. The cathaoirleach asked Cllr. Brogan to withdraw his statement, but Cllr. Brogan said he would not.
Sinn Féin councillors and Labour councillor Martin Farren pointed to a conclusion in the legal advice that said the vote last week was taken in a lawful manner.
In the 10-page document councillors received today, Patrick McMullin of McMullin Solicitors said in his conclusion, that “Taking all of the above into account, I am of opinion that the vote taken herein was done in a lawful manner and the result of same is the nomination of Councillor Ó Fearraigh under agenda item 4 (a).”
Fianna Fáil councillors said 14 members of council later furnished the council executive with a signed declaration that they had voted for Cllr. Ó Domhnaill. At one point in the meeting this morning, Cllr. Ó Domhnaill asked the 14 members to stand.
Cllr. Ó Domhnaill said he had written to the council chief executive and cathaoirleach to outline his concerns, and said if the cathaoirleach were not prepared to allow for a revote, he would ask for a vote on whether there should be a revote.
Labour Councillor Martin Farren said he found the discussion “very, very frustrating”.
“We spent last Monday here, we spent the whole day on this particular issue,” Cllr. Farren said. He said legal advice was sought and received, and he was of the opinion the vote was taken in a legal manner.
“It’s there to be seen,” Cllr. Farren said, holding up the document containing the legal advice. “Are we going to spend the whole day on this particular issue again?” he asked.
The legal advice received from McMullin Solicitors came in response to last week’s dispute over election of a councillor to the Údarás board. Sinn Féin proposed Cllr Ó Fearraigh for the position while Fianna Fáil proposed Cllr Ó Domhnaill.
A vote, via a show of hands, was counted by Director of Service Joe Peoples who informed the meeting chairman, Cllr McMonagle, that Cllr Ó Fearraigh received 12 votes while Cllr Ó Domhnaill had 11.
The council cathaoirleach deemed Cllr Ó Fearraigh elected, but this was met with strong opposition from a number of Fianna Fáil councillors who claimed the count was inaccurate. They demanded the vote be retaken as a “recorded vote”. It was later decided to seek legal advice on the matter.
See Thursday’s Donegal Democrat for more.