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Council leadership criticised

News

Jarlath Munnelly

Fine Gael promises more accountability if in control of county council

Áine Ryan

A LACK of transparency and accountability over a €30 million loan approved by the Fianna Fáil-Independents controlled Mayo County Council was ‘the biggest mistake of the last five years’. That is the view of Fine Gael party whip, Cllr Jarlath Munnelly who criticised the move at the party’s local and European elections launch in the Michael Davitt Centre, Straide, yesterday (Monday).  
Cllr Munnelly explained that half of this money was used to pay off a legacy county council debt. He said it had been ‘a very frustrating time to be on the council’ and that ongoing issues needed to be ‘highlighted and stopped’.
Speaking to The Mayo News afterwards, he said: “In December 2017, Fianna Fáil and the Independents adopted a budget that included provision for new borrowing of €30 million. This money, we were told, was to be used in part (€15 million) to clear unfunded balances on the council capital account and the remaining €15 million to fund new capital expenditure. Despite requests by Fine Gael to discuss this at a special meeting, this was ignored and blocked by the Fianna Fáil-Independent group. It is strongly the view of Fine Gael that before committing the taxpayers of Mayo to further expenditure, there should be a proper examination of the spending by the councillors.”
He said that servicing this loan ‘commits Mayo County Council to expenditure of €1.254 million every year for the next 30 years’.
At the launch Cllr Munnelly also cited the fact that from 2010 to 2014, when Fine Gael controlled the county council and the country was still in the depths of recession, there were no rates increases agreed by the council. In the interim, commercial rates have been increased by an average of 15 percent – 17 percent in Ballina and almost 20 percent in Westport.   
He said there was also an increased provision of €400,000 for parking charges voted through in 2018.
Cllr Munnelly said it was time to bring Mayo County Council ‘back to basics’.
“It is time to prioritise the services that people need, like road repairs, footpath repairs, hedge cutting, and housing. Mayo County Council seems to be ignoring these core functions but we will put these issues centre stage again.”
He quoted Michael Davitt, who coincidentally was born on March 25, and for whom the curator of the centre, Yvonne-Corcocran-Loftus had organised a birthday cake.  
“Davitt said, ‘If the Irish had a weakness greater than drink, it was moral cowardice’. With this in mind, it is the responsibility of all of us here, standing for election, to put the needs of our county first. There is no room for moral cowardice in public life. Sometimes we have to make difficult decisions in the interest of the greater good,” Cllr Munnelly said.

‘Disgrace’
IT was a local election launch so it is no surprise that Minister Michael Ring, who officiated at the launch, shot from the hip too when he dubbed the Fianna Fáil-Independents controlled Mayo County Council ‘nothing but a disgrace’.
“The county council can no longer be subsidised by the ratepayers who are being put out of business by the constant increases. People are asking about what the local authority is at, putting small business out of operation,” Michael Ring said.
He cited a list of investments made in the county under the Fine Gael government, including Ireland West Airport Knock, the greenways and The Wild Atlantic Way.  
“If I get to June 9 this year I will have served 25 years in Dáil Éireann and I spent 17-and-a-half of those in Opposition. The only place you can get anything done is in Government,” Minister Ring said.