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Civil war but no blood spilt at first Westport-Belmullet council meeting


CHAIN OF OFFICE  Newly re-elected Independent councillor, Christy Hyland, being congratulated by Padraig Walsh of Mayo County Council on his election as Cathaoirleach of West Mayo Municipal Authority. Pic: Conor McKeown

Áine Ryan

IT doesn’t matter that they are from two different parties but the fact that a Westport native, Brendan Mulroy (FF) is cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council and another Westport native, Michael Ring is a Government minister caused a major row over the chairmanship of the newly formed Westport-Belmullet Municipal District meeting yesterday (Monday). Civil War politics took on a whole new meaning at the annual general meeting when Fine Gael Cllr Gerry Coyle chastised the newly elected Fianna Fáil councillor from Erris, Seán Carey for seconding the election of Independent Christy Hyland for the chairmanship of the district thus – in his view – siding with the urban over the rural in Coyle’s estimation.  
“They have the chairmanship of the council. They have Minister Ring. I thought your campaign said ‘Carey Votes for Change’,” quipped Coyle.
Responding Cllr Brendan Mulroy, who proposed Hyland, said: “I’ve never heard of such shambolic politics in my life. We’ve come in here being accused of having Minister Ring here in the town and I’ve taken flak over the last week about being cathaoirleach of the council …. What is your hatred of Westport, Gerry?”
“There is enough power in one place at one time,” Cllr Coyle said. Addressing Cllr Carey directly, he then said: “The minister is here, the cathaoirleach is here, Seán. But don’t stand up in Ballycroy Naoínra and say you stand for change.”
Interjecting, Cllr Paul McNamara (FF) remarked to Coyle: “You are the very one who went against [former Independent] Cllr Michael Holmes when he was going for the chair.”
Expressing his disappointment at the acrimony, Cllr Peter Flynn (FG) said: “We had enough division in Castlebar [at the inaugural county council meeting] last week to do us for a lifetime. No doubt the town-rural divide needs to come up. I think it would be a nice gesture to acknowledge that Belmullet is part of the district. As a municipal district we have done royally well with €10 million euro in taxes and rates coming out of the area. The SPC on Corporate Policy is in charge of this money, so on that basis I propose Cllr Coyle as an alternative chairman of that committee. It would give a strong signal that we were not playing party politics.”  The proposal did not take wings as the Fianna Fáil alliance with the Independent chairman stood. Ultimately, Cllr Carey was elected Leas-Cathaoirleach of the municipal district.

Chairman’s address
APOLOGISING to Cllr Carey that his ‘first meeting had disintegrated’, Cathaoirleach Hyland outlined the many positive developments happening in the area, among which he cited the extension of the Great Western Greenway in Achill and from Murrisk to Roonagh; the N5 project starting in September opening up the development of a Westport-Castlebar economic hub.
“We have such a great natural resource to develop the tourism sector. I’m going to urge everyone to leave politics outside the door. I don’t want to go down the Ballymagash route. People want to know how we are going to enhance the area and our young people don’t want to go to Dublin to pay €2,000 a month for a bedsit, I admire Allergan and Portwest for creating jobs,” Cllr Hyland said.

EARLIER all the councillors expressed gratitude and paid tributes to outgoing Cllrs Tereasa Maguire and Teresa Whelan. Cathaoirleach Hyland said: “Having worked with both of the councilors, I want to wish them well. I knew Tereasa Maguire on the town council from 2009 to 2014 and she was always a great master of the English language.”