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FG councillors clash over primary care centre in Westport

FG councillors clash after question on primary care centre in Westport

Neill O’Neill

The future of a proposed primary care medical centre in Westport was questioned by Cllr Christy Hyland last week, after he informed the monthly meeting of Westport Town Council that he had been told that negotiations between the local authority and the HSE had broken down over what he termed ‘Celtic Tiger prices’ being put on council-owned land by the council executive.
However, the merit of the question was overshadowed as the meeting quickly descended into chaos, with Cllr Hyland demanding that standing orders be suspended so the item (which was not on the agenda) could be discussed, and his Fine Gael party colleague, Cathaoirleach Ollie Gannon, repeatedly calling him a ‘liar’ as tensions rose and tempers flared.
“I said I would allow you in and asked was it controversial but now I’m overruling your proposal and you can bring this up under any other business at the end, you’re upsetting the meeting and when we get through the agenda to AOB (any other business) you can bring this up,” said Cllr Gannon.
When he got his chance under AOB Cllr Hyland told the meeting that it was his information that the HSE were thinking about walking away from the primary care centre they had planned for Westport, over differences in the valuation being put on the land, which is one acre in size and located adjacent to the town Greenway and bedside the council’s Tubberhill housing development.
“The independent valuation is miles away from the price Westport Town Council are putting on this piece of land,” he said, “and I am urging the management to engage on this in a positive way to ensure the project is not lost to Westport.”
Town Manager Martin Keating then interjected, and said he totally rejected any suggestion that the council had not engaged with the HSE on the matter.
“We have engaged with the HSE on this and Westport wouldn’t be on a list that went to government if we had not done so. I accept there is a valuation question but the council has to obtain the market value and can’t dispose of the site for less than its market value. We have engaged on the value of the site in a business-like way and at their request a third valuation is being undertaken and when that is available we will re-engage.”
After the manager spoke, several of the councillors began an exchange out loud, and Cllr Hyland was asked by Cllr Brendan Mulroy how he obtained the information. He refused to divulge his source before Cllr Gannon told him, ‘this is the last time you’ll come in here and upset a meeting, you’re a liar’.
“I take exception to that,” Cllr Hyland replied. “You’re a liar,” Cllr Gannon repeated. “I asked you would this be controversial and you said it was not.”
“Don’t call me a liar, I will come in here on behalf of the people of the town and demand to know will this project be lost for the people of the town,” Cllr Hyland answered angrily.
“You’re a liar” was again the reply from the top of the table, as the meeting broke up in controversial circumstances, with further words exchanged between some members afterwards.

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