Connell vows to quit Town Council over Christmas free parking dispute

Liam Cosgrove

Reporter:

Liam Cosgrove

A prominent Longford town councillor has vowed to resign unless local authority bosses provide free parking to shoppers over the busy Christmas period.

A prominent Longford town councillor has vowed to resign unless local authority bosses provide free parking to shoppers over the busy Christmas period.

Cllr Paul Connell issued the threat as he called for executives to introduce complimentary parking measures on the last four Saturdays in December as well as the whole of Christmas week.

Whether he carries out that ultimatum, much will depend on the outcome of a further meeting of Longford Town Council, scheduled for later this afternoon (Friday).

Speaking at Wednesday night’s meeting however, the dual mandate representative spelled out the possible long term repercussions facing the council as it gears up for next month’s annual budget meeting.

“If we don’t make offer something to the people of Longford you will find them in Mullingar, Athlone, Tullamore and other towns,” he told his fellow councillors.

Growing more frustrated as the debate wore on, Cllr Connell’s tone deteriorated further when Town Clerk Dan Rooney said he could not sanction such an “open ended proposal” without analysing how the move might impact upon the council’s financial well-being going forward.

Shaking his head in muted frustration, it was at that point Cllr Connell promised to step down.

“If we don’t make a decision the cost will be far greater to you because the people (business owners) down there (in the town) will not be able to pay their rates,” he predicted when reacting to Mr Ronney’s earlier comments. “We have to have customer friendly parking and all I am asking for is for four Saturdays. If we can’t give that, damn it I will retire from this Town Council.”

As others looked on, seemingly baffled by Cllr Connell’s outburst, Cllr Michael Connellan and Mae Sexton both gave their support to their Independent colleague.

“We (including Cllr Sexton) support Cllr Connell,” he said, as he made reference to a previous and similar motion that was defeated by five votes to four. “We (Council) have to support the people on the ground and we need to show that we are open for business.”

But for some like Cllr Gerry Warnock and Denis Hughes, the introduction of universal free parking was something that needed to be considered carefully.

Cllr Warnock likened the controversy to a “bad hiccup that won’t go away,” before submitting a counter motion for Mr Rooney to estimate how much Cllr Connell’s proposal might cost.

In backing an almost identical appraisal given by Cllr Tony Flaherty, Cllr Hughes said any decision was perhaps best served by being deferred until the December meeting.

It was a suggestion which was greeted favourably by the Council’s Town Clerk, Mr Rooney. “The reason it (free parking concessions) was done before was because there was always buoyancy and we (Town Council) were doing better. We will do what we can, all I am asking for is to cost it properly,” he said.