DEFENDED DECISION Cllr Seamus Weir.
A FORMER Fine Gael councillor has accused his former party colleagues of treating him ‘like a dog’ after he voted for a Fianna Fáil councillor to become Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council.
Following last month’s local election, Fine Gael were the largest party returned with 12 seats, but needed the support of four other councillors to form a majority and take control of the chamber.
During negotiations, Fine Gael won the support of Sinn Féin’s only councillor Gerry Murray and Independent John O’Malley, a former Fine Gael councillor. They understood they also had the support of Knockmore-based Independent Seamus Weir (also a former Fine Gael councillor), but he changed his mind to join four other independents in agreeing a deal with Fianna Fáil.
As a result of the deal between Fianna Fáil and the five Independents - Michael Kilcoyne, Mark Duffy, Seamus Weir, Richard Finn and Christy Hyland - they now had the controlling share of the council.
Despite not having the numbers, Fine Gael decided to put forward Cllr Patsy O’Brien as their choice for Cathaoirleach at the AGM of Mayo County Council on Friday but was defeated by Fianna Fáil’s Brendan Mulroy by 16 votes to 14.
In what was believed to have been a swipe at Cllr Weir, Ballinrobe-based councillor Michael Burke said it was unfair ‘that people who made commitments to Patsy O’Brien in a very personal capacity’ would not now be supporting him.
In response, Cllr Weir lashed out at his former party colleagues saying they ‘let the dogs out on him’ when he would not back them.
“I was the main person trying to get to talk to Fine Gael. I tried my best. Patsy O’Brien contacted me and I said to him ‘yes but we have to have a majority’. But ye couldn’t get a majority and that was it,” he told the chamber.
“Obviously Fine Gael didn’t want to talk to all of the alliance [five Independent councillors] and they tried to break us up. That is what they did. When it didn’t work they tried the dirty work. I’ll tell you one thing I am annoyed with them … nasty texts coming to me. That is not the way you do business. I am here on this council and I am not one bit afraid of ye.
“I’m very disappointed. It is an awful sight that I am 20 years in politics and to be treated like a dog. Patsy O’Brien and myself are very good friends but we couldn’t do anything for him, that is the bottom line. I don’t blame Patsy O’Brien, I blame the team around him. They let the dogs out. I hope to move on from here,” added Cllr Weir.
After he finished addressing the council, Fine Gael councillor Ger Deere held up a piece of papers saying, “A deal is a deal, you signed the deal”. However, Cllr Weir fired back in response: “There was no deal, you hadn’t the numbers, do you know how to count?”
In response Fine Gael whip, Jarlath Munnelly said that he suspected that Cllr Weir’s comments about ‘letting the dogs out’ was aimed at him’ but added that respect was a two-way street.
“We had an agreement with people and indeed we had their signature,” he said in reference to Cllr Weir, who signed a document during negotiations with Fine Gael.
Chairing his first chamber dispute, Cllr Mulroy had to ring the bell to quieten the two men and stated it was not the day to be involved in heated disputes.
Cllr John O’Malley, who backed Fine Gael, said he did so because he gave his word to people he would and added that ‘my word is my bond’. However, outgoing Cathaoirleach, Cllr Blackie Gavin, defended Cllr Weir saying he is a man of principle and a man of his word.