'I WAS ACCUSED OF BEING INVOLED IN A PLAN' Cathaoirleach of the West Mayo Municipal District, Cllr Michael Holmes.
Accusations of threats and collusion over parking plans
A row over plans to bring in on-street parking charges in Westport escalated at a stormy meeting of Mayo County Council in Claremorris yesterday (Monday) afternoon. One councillor said he was refusing to take a decision on the matter as he ‘feels threatened’. Another councillor alleges that a West Mayo Municipal District meeting due to take place yesterday (Monday) was postponed because the council did not have enough votes in the room to pass the proposal, while the Cathaoirleach of the district is threatening to take action over what he says are accusations of collusion against him.
The monthly meeting of Mayo County Council took place at 3pm in Claremorris Town Hall. A special meeting of the West Mayo Municipal District was due to take place at 12 noon in Claremorris to discuss the parking proposals after the conclusion of the public consultation stage on May 25 last.
However, that meeting was called off on Friday night last. Two councillors questioned why and this led to heated exchanges and threats of legal action.
The discussion began when Westport-based Cllr Christy Hyland (Ind) said he feels ‘threatened’ to approve the council’s plans. The council’s General Maintenance Allocation (GMA) funding has not been released until the parking charges are approved. GMA funding is given to councillors to give to clubs and organisations in their communities.
“I now, and in the future, will make no decision on any matter relating to this council while I feel I am under duress. I’m under duress, I feel, because there has been a threat made that the GMA funding will not be paid until we resolve an issue over in West Mayo Municipal District regarding new proposals, regulations of transport and parking charges,” said Cllr Hyland.
“We agreed a budget. The GMA had nothing to do with the budget. My proposal is we will pay the GMA in each district and every other proposal that has to be resolved will be resolved in a cool, calm, clear way with no threats to anyone. I do not take actions or decisions when I feel threatened. I don’t like feeling threatened and I do feel threatened,” he added.
Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Richard Finn, said it was a matter for the West Mayo Municipal District and he was not putting Cllr Hyland’s proposal to the floor.
Cllr Hyland retorted that Cllr Finn was, in effect, proposing not to pay the GMA.
“I’ve no proposal not to pay it at all. I’m asking you to live up to the responsibility that you are elected to do and stand up and be counted and represent the people because that is your responsibility. It is not my responsibility to go down to your town and tell you what to do,” said a clearly angry Cllr Finn.
Cllr Tereasa McGuire (FG) said she was ‘very disappointed’ that her proposal to raise the necessary funds without introducing on-street parking charges in Westport was not examined further.
Cllr Brendan Mulroy (FF) said it was ‘highly unusual’ that a meeting was called off because of the absence of one person – Cllr Paul McNamara (FF) was not going to be available to attend.
“Now we are in a situation where if someone lets it be known that they are not available for a meeting, do you know what we might have no meeting for the next year. How can you be guaranteed to get 100 percent people present at a meeting? It is absolutely ridiculous. Once there’s a quorum the meeting should have went ahead this morning and the situation should have been sorted. My belief is that it was decided that the votes weren’t in the room to make sure that pay and display was brought into Westport and that’s the reason the meeting was cancelled.”
Cllr Holmes, the Cathaoirleach of the West Mayo Municipal District, said he was just off a flight in Dublin Airport late on Friday night when he was contacted by the council to say ‘a councillor or councillors’ were ‘unavailable’ and he was asked to call off the meeting.
Cllr Holmes said he had no issue either way but was unaware of any vote due to take place on the day, before saying he had been accused of ‘colluding’.
“I was accused of being involved in a plan. I want to categorically say that I had zero to do with any plan. It won’t end at that now because when you are accused of something like that, it is fairly serious,” he said.
“I will be prepared to have the meeting any time of the day or any time of the night, any day of the week, I’ll make myself available. It was deferred because it is an important meeting. I have no problem with that. I didn’t suggest it be deferred and I knew absolutely nothing, even though I was accused of colluding with a plan, to have it deferred. That will be dealt with in another forum,” he added.
Cllr Mulroy tried to respond but Cllr Finn moved the meeting on to other matters. The Mayo News contacted Cllr Holmes afterwards and he confirmed that his threat of action did not relate to comments made by Cllr Mulroy during the meeting but comments made by another councillor before the meeting began. He would not divulge the name of the councillor.