Sunday 18 March 2018

Councillors who voted against rezoning face rap from FG

Conor Kane, Eimear Ni Bhraonain and Fionnan Sheahan

TWO Fine Gael councillors are facing disciplinary action for refusing to support a party colleague who voted to rezone the land at the heart of the Fred Forsey corruption trial.

Mr Forsey, a former Fine Gael councillor, was given a six-year jail sentence last week.

Fine Gael has never looked into the actions of the seven sitting councillors who voted for the controversial rezoning.

Yet councillors Ann Marie Power and Maxine Keoghan, who didn't vote for the rezoning, have been summoned to an internal disciplinary hearing and risk being thrown out of the party.

The inquiry follows their failure to vote for their Fine Gael colleague Lola O'Sullivan in the contest for mayor of Tramore last month. Ms O'Sullivan lost out on the position.

The pair refused to vote for her because she voted in favour of the rezoning of the controversial land in Waterford in 2008. Ms Power voted against the controversial rezoning and Ms Keoghan was not on the council at the time.

Ms Power told Mr Forsey's trial the "dogs in the street" knew there was a cloud over the rezoning. Yet Fine Gael has so far failed to examine why its own councillors voted for the rezoning, despite a garda investigation and advice from the then environment minister and the Waterford county manager against rezoning the land.

The councillors who voted for the rezoning have always stood by their decision, saying their sole concern was job creation. Ms Power and Ms Keoghan have made an official complaint about the decision of seven sitting party councillors in Waterford to vote to rezone the land in May 2008.

But the hearing into the conduct of Ms Power and Ms Keoghan, for not voting for Ms O'Sullivan, is scheduled for next week in Dublin.

Fine Gael county councillors in Waterford are meeting tonight with party general secretary Tom Curran.

However, party headquarters wouldn't discuss tonight's meeting or next week's disciplinary hearing when contacted yesterday. A spokesman described them as "private" and "internal party procedures".

Both Ms Power and Ms Keoghan confirmed this week they have received letters asking them to attend a disciplinary hearing next Tuesday in Dublin, following complaints against them by Ms O'Sullivan and by the Fine Gael group on Waterford County Council. Ms Keoghan said yesterday she was "disappointed" by the latest development within her party.

"I don't accept I should be disciplined for having integrity and today I have a clear conscience with my decision to abstain (in the mayoralty vote)."

She described the treatment by party headquarters of herself and Ms Power as "disgraceful" but said she doesn't want to have to leave Fine Gael.

The Fine Gael group secretary in Waterford, Nora Flynn, said yesterday she had not heard anything about any disciplinary hearing next week.

Attempts to contact Ms O'Sullivan were unsuccessful.

Irish Independent

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