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Fine Gael favourites to control council

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SHOW OF SUPPORT Johnno O'Malley, pictured here with supporters at the Count Centre in Castlebar, has said he will not be supporting Fianna Fáil in the vote to control Mayo County Council for the next five years.  Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil alliance also possible

Edwin McGreal

Fine Gael are leading the way for control of Mayo County Council for the next five years.
But there is also a possibility of the two largest parties – Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil – coming to an agreement.
Fine Gael took 12 seats in May’s elections and already are further along the road towards getting to the magic number of 16 to control who will be cathaoirleach of the council for each of the next five years and who will chair the various strategic policy committees (SPCs) on the council.
The youngest member of the council is 27-year-old Cllr Mark Duffy from Ballina. He says he has spoken with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Independent grouping but is undecided as to how he will vote. He added he will be ‘casting my vote in the best interests of Ballina and north Mayo’.
Westport Independent Cllr John O’Malley has confirmed he will not support Fianna Fáil in their bid for control of the council.
The former Fine Gael councillor has spoken with Fine Gael but says he has not committed to anything yet.
Another former Fine Gael councillor is Séamus Weir. The Knockmore man gave tacit support to the Fianna Fáil/Independent alliance five years ago by abstaining from votes, therefore allowing 15 to be an effective majority.
That alliance comprised ten Fianna Fáil councillors and five other independents – Michael Kilcoyne, Michael Holmes, Gerry Ginty, Richard Finn and Christy Hyland.
Ginty and Holmes have both retired but a source from the Independent group said they understand Weir is preparing to support Fine Gael. Cllr Weir could not be reached last night.
Were the two former Fine Gael councillors to support Fine Gael, that would bring them to fourteen. One party insider said the party are also hopeful of getting the support of Sinn Féin’s Cllr Gerry Murray. Cllr Murray told The Mayo News he had received overtures from both parties. He has previously worked with Fine Gael in Claremorris Municipal District.
“I think they will only come to me if they cannot work the numbers any other way,” he said.
Were Fine Gael to get to 15, all Fianna Fáil and any Independent alliance could do would be to block them by getting 15 votes themselves.
In that scenario lots would have to be drawn for who would get cathaoirleach of the council and the various SPC chairs.
“But that’s no way to run a county,” admitted Cllr Michael Kilcoyne, who is conducting negotiations for the Independents. He added the Independent grouping is only in place if they can hold the balance of power. There are only three members of the Independent alliance from five years ago still on the council – Kilcoyne, Hyland and Finn. There is uncertainty then about the voting intentions of Séamus Weir and Mark Duffy, while John O’Malley, though not fully committed to Fine Gael, will not be voting for Fianna Fáil.
“I had people who supported me who were members of Fine Gael and said they would not support me if I was going to support Fianna Fáil so I said I wouldn’t and I intend to honour that,” he said.
Cllr O’Malley said he spoke to two Fine Gael councillors last week but had not committed to supporting their bid as of yet.
Fianna Fáil councillors were due to meet last night (Monday) for an update on negotiations.
It is believed there will be three options in front of them at the meeting. The first is to form a coalition with Independents; the second is to come to an agreement with Fine Gael or the third is to opt for a term in opposition.
Representatives from the party met with both Fine Gael and the Independent group in the last week to explore possible agreements. Meetings with all sides are set to take place today (Tuesday).
“Everyone seems to be talking to everyone. A clear agreement could be a bit off yet,” said one Fianna Fáil source.
All will be revealed at the Annual General Meeting of Mayo County Council this coming Friday morning at 11am in Aras an Chondae.