Fine Gael has been accused of deliberately “stage managing” last week’s official handover of Connolly Barracks.
Cllrs Tony Flaherty and Michael Connellan this week expressed their frustration at the events of last Monday week (May 21) which saw Minister for Justice Alan Shatter put pen to paper on the Governmnent’s €450,000 deal with Longford local authorities.
The Dublin South TD also came in for sustained criticism from an irate Cllr Flaherty who accused the Trinity College graduate of intentionally avoiding a staged protest outside Longford’s County Council offices.
“My own opinion was that it (meeting) was hypocrisy of the highest order,” he said. “I have to say it was very poor form from Fine Gael that no one was allowed to talk.”
One of those, however, who did break ranks was Cllr Mae Sexton. The dual local representative asked Mr Shatter to reconsider transferring the remaining 10.5 acres to both local authorities free of charge.
“You could see the look on the Fine Gael boys’ faces when Cllr Sexton spoke. They were looking at each other as they knew no one was supposed to talk. When Mae (Cllr Sexton) finished speaking, I signalled to the top table but I was totally blanked,” he said.
Turning his attention to Mr Shatter, Cllr Flaherty admitted he had been left more than unimpressed by the Defence Minister’s reply and overall performance.
“The response he (Mr Shatter) gave was very lame and that’s putting it mildly. He was reading from a prepared script, so obviously it’s civil servants doing his work which I think is very poor form from a minister,” he added.
Cllr Flaherty’s party colleague, Cllr Michael Connellan gave a similarly quizzical analysis of what transpired in front of a packed council chamber.
The Longford town based solicitor asked whether the meeting had been purposely orchestrated so as to prevent any dissenting advances being made in Mr Shatter’s direction.
“It (meeting) was supposed to be at 4pm, but when I went down at 3:50pm, it was nearly over. Was it set up so that the three people who opposed the deal would miss the meeting? I don’t know, but the whole approach was downright disrespectful,” he said.
Giving his reaction to those allegations this week, Longford Westmeath Fine Gael TD James Bannon insisted there was no hidden agenda behind the meeting.
“It’s bitterness, jealousy, sour grapes, whatever you want to call it because it was me who was able to strike the deal,” he said.
Asked was there any truth in the suggestion Mr Shatter arrived in Longford early in order to avoid protestors, again the Legan TD was defiant when giving his response.
“The meeting got going at 4:10pm, but didn’t really get underway until 4:20pm. We were in Athlone at a ceremony and I said to the minister if he would like to inspect the fine site which he was about to hand over which he did,” he said.
Appearing riled by the claims made by those in opposition, Mr Bannon hit back, saying: “One Fianna Fail councillor actually came up to me afterwards. He said ‘fair play, you have delivered more than Albert (Reynolds) ever did for Longford in your short term (as a government TD).