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Mayo councillors have mixed views about coalition

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‘PROPOSED COALITION IS A PATCHWORK GOVERNMENT’Westport Fine Gael councillor, Peter Flynn.

Áine Ryan


IF Fine Gael’s county councillors here in Mayo had the decisive vote in accepting the Programme for Government, it would be a  resounding thumbs down. That is according to Cll Peter Flynn who told The Mayo News yesterday (Monday) that this programme categorically deepens the chasm between rural Ireland and Dublin.
Cllr Flynn pulled no punches also saying: “I haven’t met one Fine Gael person in west Mayo who supports the formation of this coalition or its programme document and can confirm that the party’s eleven county councillors have given it the thumbs down.”
However, as Flynn points out this position – and the fact that a lot of rural councillors throughout the country are against the deal – doesn’t ultimately matter since Fine Gael’s Electoral College system gives 50 percent of the voting capacity to the parliamentary party.  
“This proposed coalition is a patchwork government with lots of internal struggling going on and that’s not only in the Green Party. In the middle of this Covid-19 pandemic, it has become abundantly clear that people are re-evaluating their lives and want to move out of cities. This document doesn’t address or deliver on a post-Covid world,” he continued.
He also said that the rumoured scrapping of the Department of Rural and Community Development, led so well by Minister Michael Ring, underscored the attitude of the proposed new government.  
Flynn added that we must continue to remember if the Greens had their way, the N5 from Turlough to Westport would be scrapped and, indeed, other essential infrastructural upgrades across the country.
Speaking also to The Mayo News, his north Mayo party colleague, Cllr Jarlath Munnelly said the Green’s suggestion of a mid-term review did not exactly inspire confidence in the programme’s sustainability.
“Catherine Martin, [the Green Party’s Deputy Leader], comments regarding a mid-term review of the government displays an alarming level of naivety and is sending a chilling message to Fine Gael people that the Greens may have difficulty in keeping their word.”
New elected Fine Gael TD for Mayo, Alan Dillon, indicated on Friday last that he would be supporting the programme for government, and highlighted a number of aspects of the programme which he feels will be beneficial to the county.

Ministerial power
Fianna Fáil’s Cllr Brendan Mulroy, the outgoing Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, confirmed he is supporting the deal, stressing the urgency of Government formation in these uncertain times with the ongoing pandemic and the prospect of Brexit, and its economic fallout, still hanging over us.
“The reality is we are in ‘Covid land’ at the moment which makes our need for government formation more urgent. I’d say pre-Covid we wouldn’t have supported it,” Cllr Mulroy said.
Continuing, he said: “We’ve all seen the benefits of having a senior minster in our county and Minister Ring certainly delivered for us, so the fact that Dara Calleary will be appointed to a senior portfolio is very good for Mayo.”
Calleary is the deputy leader of Fianna Fáil and was one of the party’s chief negotiators during the process. Cllr Mulroy added that there was always a chance Michael Ring would be appointed to a ministry too. He conceded that the entire process would have been simpler if it was just two parties involved in the negotiations.

Green rebels
DISPARATE views within the county are further highlighted in an open letter, co-signed by Green Party rebel Saoirse McHugh with other General Election 2020 candidates, urging party members to reject the Programme for Government
The letter states: “The Programme for Government does not offer the type of assurance necessary to give us confidence that the next government will take effective, fair and enduring climate action while also addressing the crises we face in housing, health, homelessness and agriculture.”
They say they are ‘especially concerned’ it would have ‘a disproportionate, negative impact on young people in Ireland’.
“It is particularly disappointing to see the Programme use the term ‘Green New Deal’. A true Green New Deal recognises that action to combat climate change will not be successful unless it simultaneously ushers in social and economic reforms that will distribute opportunity more fairly and tackle inequality,” they continue.
They argue that the new deal is more akin to ‘a greener business-as-usual’ and does not prioritise ‘adequate housing, a decent healthcare system, economic security and workers’ rights’ as the core ‘building blocks for the transition our society must make to a zero-carbon future’.
The co-signatories with McHugh are Tate Donnelly, candidate in Cavan-Monaghan, Julie O’Donoghue, candidate in Roscommon-Galway, and Seán McCabe, candidate, Meath East.
Ironically, with the Green Party needing a two-thirds majority in favour of the coalition, it is the smallest party in the proposed coalition that will have the decisive say as Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael members are poised to support it.