Longford councillors not being trusted with public money

Liam Cosgrove

Reporter:

Liam Cosgrove

Email:

liam.cosgrove@longfordleader.ie

Longford County Council's HQ on Longford's Great Water Street.

Former Enterprise Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor has been labelled a 'gob***** minister' over her handling of town and village renewal.

The outburst was one which came from Independent Cllr Mae Sexton concerning the way in which state funding for town centre rejuvenation is handed out.
Under the strategy's broader framework, three measures were identified for urban centres to satisfy before applying for funding under the scheme.
One of those provided recommendations for the establishment of a town centre management partnership or 'town team' structure.
Responding to the guidelines, Cllr Mae Sexton said the initiative was only serving to denude the powers of democratically elected politicians.
“We (councillors) made it crystal clear in Longford that we are the town team and I defy the Department (of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation) to tell us that we are not the town team,” she said.
Switching her focus to Ms Mitchell O'Connor who announced the scheme two months ago, Cllr Sexton said she was not prepared to accept the plan's preconditions lying down.
“No gob**** minister is going to denude the arm of local democracy,” she stormed.
“I am deeply concerned that councillors aren't being trusted with public money because that is what is being suggested here.”
Ms Mitchell O'Connor courted much media attention last week when details emerged over her apparent 'sacking' as Jobs and Enterprise Minister.
The decision came after newly elected Taoiseach Leo Varadkar created a new super junior post in the Department of Education for Ms Mitchell O’Connor after he dropped her as a senior Cabinet minister.
Speaking that same afternoon Cllr Sexton called on the former Enterprise Minister to clear up any ambiguity over how the Town Centre renewal scheme would be financed.
“I honestly don't know what legislation the minister thinks she is using by giving funding to community groups and not to local authorities,” she said.
Not finished there, the increasingly incensed former TD said she would be willing to take her protestations beyond the realms of the local authority structure.
“I hope it is taken up at AILG (Association of Irish Local Government) level,” she argued.
“No minister should be telling any elected members how to do their business and if it has to be challenged legally, then so be it.”
A letter is now expected to be sent to Ms Mitchell's former advisers in the Department of Enterprise in a bid to clarify the issue.