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Political warfare in Ballina

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Party political warfare breaks out in Ballina

Áine Ryan

CIVIL WAR POLITICS erupted in the chamber of Ballina Town Council last week after Deputy Michael Ring was accused of favouring the development of the N5, Castlebar–Westport road, over the completion of the N26,  Ballina–Bohola road.
The verbal sortie was initiated by Cllr Willie Nolan (FF) during a debate on the National Roads Authority’s (NRA) recent allocations.
“I was very disappointed to hear that Deputy Michael Ring was complaining in the papers that Mayo County Council hadn’t prioritised the N5. It just shows where Deputy Ring stands about this part of the county,” said Cllr Nolan. 
Cllr Nolan was referring to a piece in last week’s local newspapers in which the Westport-based TD questioned ‘the motives’ of the County Council’s prioritisation of the N26.
He observed: “This eleven-mile stretch [N5] is the busiest road in the region and is badly in need of improvement. It’s a disgrace because the Westport-Castlebar road had been a priority for many years but now with the stroke of a pen it seems to have been demoted.”
Deputy Mayor, Cllr Padraig Moore declined to allow Cllr Michelle Mulherin comment on Cllr Nolan’s observation.
“Cllr Nolan is very lucky you are in the chair tonight,” quipped Cllr Mulherin.
Cllr Tommy Cooke supported the Fine Gael General Election candidate’s contention that she was being unfairly treated.
“You are being muzzled by your own Mayor who left before the meeting ended,” he said. The local authority’s only PD councillor was referring to the fact that Mayor Mark Winters (FG) had excused himself and handed the chairing of the meeting over to Fianna Fáil’s Padraig Moore.
 Cllr Mary Kelly (Ind) called on the members to leave party politics outside the door of the chamber.
“I hope politics and policies are left out of this,” said Cllr Kelly, who claimed that General Election candidate Dara Calleary was taking credit for moving on the proposed Arts Centre two years ago. She added that the reason Ballina did not have a resident TD was because of such party political shenanigans.
The temperature soared again when a motion, by the absent Mayor Winters, calling on the Council ‘to establish a sub-committee to be known as the Ballina Town Council Development Committee’ led to further verbal guerilla warfare. To defuse the situation the Deputy Mayor called a five-minute adjournment after Cllr Mulherin refused to be silent.
She told The Mayo News that, in her opinion, Fianna  Fáil councillors were trying ‘to muddy the waters’ to deflect from anyone attempting to shine a light on Government’s abysmal record in Mayo, and particularly Ballina.
“The reality is the Deputy Mayor and his colleagues didn’t want the issue [of job losses] fully debated. When I attempted to speak I was accused of being political. I was referring to the loss of 1,500 jobs in Ballina and the fact that there is no evidence that Government has any interest,” stated Cllr Mulherin.
“There should be more time spent debating the real issues and finding solutions, rather than trying, not so ingeniously, to shut up a democratically elected voice of the people,” she argued.
“It’s a clear sign of Fianna Fáil’s hens coming home to roost,” added Cllr Mulherin.