Monday 20 November 2017

Bizarre scenes as councillors spend over two hours arguing about seating arrangement in new chambers

Fianna Fáil councillor Anne Rabbitte agreed to sit away from her party during the row
Fianna Fáil councillor Anne Rabbitte agreed to sit away from her party during the row
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

There were bizarre scenes at a county council meeting today as councillors spent two hours arguing over seating arrangements.

A row broke out at the meeting of Galway County Council after Fianna Fáil and Sinn Fein clashed over which party should occupy the far right hand side of the chamber.

Galway's council chamber was opened today and is shaped as a horse shoe. The work to refurbish and extend the chamber, located at Prospect Hill just off Eyre Square, cost €500,000.

But the first meeting descended into farce as councillors rowed over seating.

Traditionally in Galway, this agreement has seen Fine Gael occupying the left hand side of the chamber with Fianna Fáil councillors sitting on the right hand side.

However, both parties are now in coalition in Galway and wanted to sit together.

But the row broke out after Sinn Fein's three councillors insisted on occupying the right hand side, to the disagreement of Fianna Fáil.

Sinn Fein argued that it required the right hand side because one of their councillors, Gabriel Cronnelly, has a prosthetic leg and needs the space.

Fianna Fáil said it would allow Mr Cronnelly to occupy the outside seat - but that his two Sinn Fein colleagues would need to sit elsewhere.

Sinn Fein disagreed, saying it was not willing to be split up in the chamber.

The discussions took place over two hours and eventually led to a Fianna Fáil councillor, Anne Rabbitte, agreeing to sit away from her party and in with the independents in the middle of the horse shoe.

Also sitting among the independents is James Charity, Renua's latest recruit.

Ms Rabbitte told

"There is a huge amount of work to do in Galway and we should not be squabbling over seats. I'm annoyed at the whole thing and how much time was wasted but I'm certainly being the bigger person."

Mr Cronnelly said the row was not of Sinn Fein's making and that 'common sense should have prevailed'.

"We have a full agenda to get through and this was totally unnecessary," he said.

Mr Cronnelly said he is in discussions with the council management to have the chamber modified to meet his disability requirements.

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