It may still be the best part of a year or more away, but already the political jockeying for position ahead of the next general election is starting to emerge, writes Liam Cosgrove.
The first shots ahead of that election were fired this week as Independent Cllr and recently declared candidate Gerry Warnock and businessman James Morgan became embroiled in a simmering row.
The controversy, which erupted on social netorking site Facebook, came after Mr Morgan called for a ‘protest parade’ to be held in Longford in an effort to highlight many of the issues facing the county.
Mr Morgan said it was important people showed a united front rather than engage in so-called ‘political point scoring’, something Cllr Warnock reacted angrily to.
In a lengthy reply on Mr Morgan’s Facebook page, Cllr Warnock said he had been left disappointed the remark.
And he insisted his ongoing attempts to address crime and anti-social behaviour in Co Longford was anything but.
“My activity since the 2014 local elections is my attempting to fulfill my commitment to the people of Longford who gave me my mandate,” he wrote.
“I realise that my declaration to contest the general election has put a target on my back for such unfounded assessments of my commitment to the people of Longford.”
Those comments came on Sunday evening, statements Cllr Warnock reieterated to the Leader 24 hours later.
“I had to defend my honour,” he said.
“The last thing I want to do is get involved in spats but let’s be real about it.
I can stand over my record since I was co-opted in 2011.
I’m not going to allow anyone with political ambitions to put a slur on my good name.
I won’t let anyone, let alone, Jimmy Morgan, throw out loose accusations about myself.”
For his part, Mr Morgan, who has yet to make his general election intentions known, said his comments had been blown out of proprtion.
He said his appeal for politicians and the wider electorate to stand together in defence of Longford’s present and long term future was well intended.
“I think it’s unfortunate that Gerry seems to have interpreted my call to action as an attack on his record, but given the adversarial nature of party politics in this country it’s probably not surprising,” said the chartered accountant.
“I thought of us, and would like to continue to think of us, as colleagues, united by a concern for Longford.” Mr Morgan, who managed to secure 6,000 first preference votes despite a quick-fire Longford-Westmeath by election campaign last May, said his focus was on furthering the interests of Longfordians at large.
“I had an idea, a simple suggestion about how Longford could do better if we all pull together.
“I shared that call for collective action online, hoping to catch as large an audience as possible, and it seems to have been misinterpreted by some.
I’d much rather we turn our attention back to the real story: the continued failure of our national politicians to deliver on urgently needed services,” he said.