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Councillors quarrel over parking revenue


‘FORGET ABOUT EVERYWHERE ELSE’ Achill Fianna Fáil councillor, Paul McNamara.

Achill councillor accuses Westport councillors of only thinking about Westport

Anton McNulty

An Achill councillor accused his Westport colleagues of acting as though they were still sitting on the now-abolished Westport Town Council, claiming the local municipal district meeting was ‘all about Westport’.
Fianna Fáil councillor Paul McNamara voiced his frustration at Friday’s monthly meeting of the Westport-Belmullet Municipal District, accusing his fellow councillors of focusing solely on Westport.
The matter arose when Cllr Peter Flynn proposed that the net revenue from car-parking fees in Westport be ringfenced for the West Mayo electoral area.
The Westport-Belmullet Municipal District includes both the West Mayo and Belmullet Electoral Areas, and Cllr Flynn’s proposal, if carried, would mean that the parking-fee revenue would not be spent in the Belmullet Eletoral Area, which includes Achill, Mulranny and Erris.
Cllr McNamara was the only councillor from the Belmullet Electoral Area present at the meeting, which took place in Westport, and he was not happy with Cllr Flynn’s proposal.
“You seem to be only focused on the town council. The whole meeting now is about Westport; from housing and now car parking. Is there anything else you want to discuss?” Cllr McNamara quipped. “It is a Westport Town Council meeting … You want the town for yourselves, that is the way you are promoting it. All you are doing is wanting to ringfence Westport and forget about everywhere else in the municipal district.”

Poor funding
Cllr Flynn said he did not want to create a divide, but that he feels that 90 percent of the parking fees collected in Westport are being paid by people living in the Westport area. He added that if car-parking charges were introduced to Achill and Belmullet, he would have no problem with that revenue being ringfenced for those areas.
Cllr McNamara remained unconvinced. “What you are doing here is ringfencing Achill and Belmullet out of the money … that is exactly what you are proposing to do,” he said.
Earlier, Cllr Flynn had said that he wanted to see car-parking revenue ringfenced for specific capital projects, footpath repairs and other projects because the current funding towards municipal districts was poor.
“To me municipal districts have been deliberately excluded from the decision making process and all is controlled in Castlebar, and all we get is the crumbs,” he said. “The funding towards municipal districts is appalling, and while this won’t resolve the problem – we are only talking hundreds of thousands of euro – it is a start. I’d like to think by passing this we are sending a message that where money is raised it is spent,” he added.
Director of Services, Catherine McConnell questioned whether the motion would conflict with legislation, but Cllr Flynn claimed the motion was legally sound, as a similar motion had recently been passed in Kilkenny.

Dangerous precedent
Cllr Brendan Mulroy felt that the motion was setting a dangerous precedent and he had ‘no intention of selling the people of Achill or Belmullet out’.
“The last thing we want is the message going out that we want you to visit [Westport], but we don’t want the money [you spend] going to back into your area which is part of our district. I think it is very divisive,” he said.
Cllr Flynn replied that an additional €100,000 was to be raised through car parking fees in 2019 and he did not want it ‘lost in a black hole in Castlebar and never seen again’. He added that he has no problem including the Belmullet Electoral Area in the motion if the municipal district gets extra money.
However, he was informed by council officials that he could not amend a notice of motion, so he agreed to drop the motion and make it again at the December meeting, when he would include the Belmullet Electoral Area.