Cllr Sean Farrell has rowed back on his comments referring to Town Councils as “talking shops” after coming in for sustained attack at a recent County Council meeting.
During February’s County Council meeting, the Fine Gael councillor had referred to both Longford and Granard Town Councils as “talking shops.”
At the recent Co Council meeting, councillors rounded on Cllr Farrell for his comments, despite many members only seeing the comments for the first time in this paper, as many had left the meeting by the time they were uttered.
“Unfortunately, you come to the end of the meeting and there’s no one left in the chamber but on behalf of Fine Gael, I want to apologise to Longford Town Council and Granard Town Council for the words said by Sean,” Cllr Paddy Belton.
“I know Fine Gael has members on both councils, and have done great work down through the years. Sean can get a little bit hot and may have overstepped the mark. Myself and the party apologise for what was said by Sean,” Cllr Belton added.
In the light of the comments, Fianna Fail Cllr Padraig Loughrey called on Fine Gael to appoint a dual mandate councillor to fill Alan Mitchell’s vacant seats.
“If it is the belief amongst certain people that [town councils are] talking shops, then people on the Fine Gael side of the house should not co-opt anyone onto Alan Mitchell’s seat; what’s the point if that’s their belief? Or at the very least, one councillor should fill the two seats and not be costing this county two salaries,” Cllr Loughrey said.
Cllr Gerry Brady was quick to reject the guidance offered by Fianna Fail. “Don’t be lecturing Fine Gael on what we should be doing on this side of the house. If the pot is black, the kettle is twice as black. If you do something when you’re in power don’t be criticising people in power for doing the same thing,” Cllr Brady snapped.
Cllr Farrell stated what he had said were “personal comments” and apologised if he offended anyone, without withdrawing his original comments.
“The context of my comments was the extension of the town boundary. It has been said that my comments were a forerunner to what may come down the line with [the possible abolition of] town councils, but I’m no wiser; I have no additional information. I sure as hell ain’t God; there are no gods out in Newtowncashel.
“Obviously there is a vast difference between Longford and Granard. Longford is a rating authority and generates its own funds, vastly different to Granard. Granard has no devolved power, it’s not a rating authority, it has no powers and any funding it gets it gets from the Council here. That’s the context I put that in,” Cllr Farrell continued.
“There was no personal slight on any of the councillors. If I did offend any of the councillors or anyone else I do apologise but that is where it arose out of,” the Fine Gael councillor said to a weak round of applause.
The Mayor Cllr Frank Kilbride then said, “If we keep talking about it, they will start calling us a talking shop. It took us an hour and fifteen minutes to talk about that.”