A meeting of Longford County Council descended into farce last night (Wednesday) as local politicians clashed over government cuts to elderly and disabled grants.
Fianna Fail’s Martin Mulleady led the heated exchanges as he accused the council’s ten sitting Fine Gael councillors of doing nothing to pressurise central government into reversing the decision.
“It’s absolutely scandalous what this Minister has done,” he said, referring directly to Housing Minister Jan O’Sullivan.
“It’s about time our Fine Gael councillors stand up and be counted on this issue.”
He also had strong words following an interview Ms O’Sullivan gave on RTE’s Morning Ireland last week in which the Labour TD said grant allocations had increased from €35million last year to €38million in 2014.
The Drumlish representative branded Ms O’Sullivan’s comments “a load of baloney” as he then directed his focus on recent remarks made by Fine Gael Cllr Peggy Nolan to the local media.
She had previously implied that despite not being able to stand over the changes, her membership with Fine Gael would remain strong.
Appearing visibly shaken by the attack, Cllr Nolan took to her feet to address the chamber, saying she had been in direct contact with Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s office over the controversy.
“I have sat here as a member of Fine Gael and listened to absolute drivel,” she furiously replied.
“I am very much an individual and I am a member of Fine Gael. And let me tell you this, the principles that drove me into local government haven’t changed.”
Cllr Mulleady was quick to respond however, as he pressured the Longford Town councillor into resigning the party whip.
“If Peggy Nolan doesn’t get these (cuts) reversed will she resign?” Cllr Mulleady shouted across the chamber.
Now sitting back in her chair, Cllr Nolan responded brusquely: “Absolutely not.”
The pair were not the only ones to hurl accusations at one another with Cllrs Mark Casey and Sean Farrell also attempting to shout each other down.
The raising decibel levels inside the chamber even caused its Mayor, Cllr Larry Bannon to raise the possibility of adjourning the meeting.
Thumping the desk in front of him and then waving his hands in exasperation, Cllr Bannon asked Cllr Mulleady in a raised voice: “Have you any manners at all? Have you any respect for the chair whatsoever?”
And with that intervention, normality steadily returned as councillors agreed to seek a deputation to meet with Ms O’Sullivan in a bid to reverse the cuts.