Talks aimed at attracting a leading hotel chain to Longford town has sparked a war of words between its mayor and Chamber of Commerce President, Seamus Butler.
Independent Cllr Paul Connell this week launched a strongly worded broadside at the Chamber boss who he accused of ‘showboating’ ahead of the local elections. .
Cllr Connell said a group of county council executives were in close contact with at least one interested party over the possibility of setting up inside the town’s vacant shopping centre.
That was, he claimed, until Mr Butler decided to speak to a local radio station about the behind closed doors talks.
“He said it was inevitable that a hotel (coming to Longford) was around the corner, but that’s simply not true,” he said, before accusing Mr Butler of engaging in political points scoring.
“This has scuppered any chance we had of getting that hotel here. What Seamus was doing was showboating coming up to an election.”
Cllr Connell said efforts to boost Longford’s tourism potential by attracting a recognised hotel chain to Longford had been in train since last May.
Members of a specially arranged sub economic committee, involving local representatives and council executives were, and remained, very much behind that drive, he said.
“This developer had a hotel operator line up to run it (hotel) but it appears to have fizzled out. What they (Chamber) are trying to do is take over something they know absolutely nothing about,” he angrily put it.
Both Cllrs Tony Flaherty and Denis Hughes spoke out in support of Cllr Connell’s take on events, with the latter named representative expressing his surprise at Mr Butler’s intervention.
For his part, Mr Butler spent much of last week with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and over 80 Irish companies on a trade mission to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region.
When the Leader caught up with him in Dubai, the former Fianna Fail councillor didn’t take long to hit back at Longford’s Town Mayor.
“I was approached and asked to comment that this (new hotel opening) might be happening. I did not bring this into the public domain,” he sternly replied.
“I never mentioned the Chamber either. I have been in business 30 years and in that time I have always promoted inward investment in Longford. If you call that showboating, then I’m sorry he (Cllr Connell) is wrong.”