Hogan is warned of SF gain from cuts to councils
ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan has been warned by his own party that Sinn Fein could be the biggest winner from his shake-up of councils -- quadrupling its strength in Dublin.
He had announced his plan to reduce the number of councillors from 1,627 to a maximum of 950 and to abolish 80 town councils.
But at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, Fine Gael Waterford TD John Deasy warned that Sinn Fein would gain from the plan to have more councillors in urban areas.
He said the party could more than quadruple its strength in Dublin, where the number of council seats is due to increase from 130 to 170.
Sinn Fein has eight councillors in Dublin, but Mr Deasy predicted the changes could help it get more than 40 after the local elections in two years' time. And he warned that many of the councillors losing their jobs would be from Fine Gael.
Mr Hogan was not present when the warning was delivered, but it was backed up by several other Fine Gael backbenchers.
But the meeting was notable for the lack of any serious criticism of the eight first-time Fine Gael TDs who had written an article calling for more cuts to allowances and increments under the Croke Park agreement.
There were some "side-swipes" about TDs engaging in populist gestures. But crucially, Taoiseach Enda Kenny was not present because he was attending the European People's Party gathering in Bucharest in Romania.
"Kenny is going to have to deal with it. You can't have a group of eight trying to influence policy. And it's not good for coalition stability," one backbencher said.
But there was further potential for coalition tensions on the issue of sick pay, with Fine Gael Mayo TD Michelle Mulherin and others voicing opposition to plans by Social Protection Minister Joan Burton to get employers to pay for the first four weeks of employees' sick leave in the Budget.
There was agreement to request Ms Burton to meet with a party internal policy committee to discuss the measure.
At Labour's parliamentary party meeting, there was a light-hearted moment during Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin's briefing about the Croke Park Agreement.
He was struck by a fit of coughing while he tried to say "Croke Park" -- leading to one party wag to shout: "Choke Park".