Row over handling of debate into house
proposal

The property at Clondra which is at the centre of the controversy. Photo: Shelley Corcoran
There were heated exchanges in the Council Chamber last week following a meeting of Longford County Council to discuss the proposed sale of a house belonging to County Manager Tim Caffrey.

There were heated exchanges in the Council Chamber last week following a meeting of Longford County Council to discuss the proposed sale of a house belonging to County Manager Tim Caffrey.

At the meeting, a letter sent by the Council’s Ethics Registrar Enda Tiernan stated that he had become aware through the media of a possible breach of the ethics rule under the terms of the 2001 Local Government Act.

Mr Tiernan said the proposed sale of the house to The Muiriosa Foundation may have involved an alleged conflict as the cost of the property “was being financed by the council” via Department of the Environment funding.

This would appear to directly contradict correspondence sent to this newspaper on October 21 by the council, suggesting Muiriosa were sole purchasers in the deal.

“The property was to be acquired by Muiriosa rather than Longford County Council under the terms of the scheme,” said the statement at the time.

At last week’s meeting, Co Mayor Larry Bannon said he wished to refer the entire matter to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) and the Local Government Auditor for a full investigation to be carried out.

This was proposed and seconded by Fine Gael’s Cllr Gerry Brady and Cllr Denis Glennon of Fianna Fail, prompting Cllr Bannon to formally close the meeting.

This led to a stormy exchange as Cllr Mae Sexton accused the Mayor of deliberately framing the meeting by not allowing councillors to discuss the issue.

“You are not going to stop me talking because you have decided to stitch this meeting up,” she told Mayor Bannon.

The independent councillor called for the Minister of the Environment to hold an inquiry into the matter.

She reacted angrily to the decision to close the meeting and told the Mayor that this issue was outside the remit of SIPO.

“How dare you tell me I have no right to speak at public meetings. Let it be on your head, Chair. These matters are outside of the remit of SIPO and you know it. Anyway, you have made a decision and let it be on your head,” she said.