Drogheda Independent

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Historic council AGM sees two females in top spots for first time

An historic AGM of Louth county council elected for the first time a female cathaoirleach and deputy.

Cllr Dolores Minogue became only the second woman to lead the local authority, but never before have two women filled the two top positions at the same time which came to pass after Cllr Michelle Hall was elected leas-cathaoirleach.

However, while there was much rejoicing at this turn of events, some members were critical of the voting pact which exists between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour.

Cllr Minogue, outgoing cathaoirleach of Ardee municipal district, was proposed by her Fine Gael colleague Cllr Colm Markey and seconded by Cllr Maria Doyle.

The only other name put forward was that of Cllr Kevin Meenan (SF) by Cllr Pearse McGeough, and seconded by Cllr Edel Corrigan.

Cllr Minogue prevailed by 16 votes to eight.

She was supported by Paul Bell (Lab), Marianne Butler (GP), James Byrne (FF), Kevin Callan (Ind), Emma Coffey (FF), Maria Doyle (FG), Michelle Hall (Lab), Conor Keelan (FF), Seán Kelly (FF), Colm Markey (FG), Erin McGreehan (FF), Dolores Minogue (FG), Declan Power (Ind), Liam Reilly (FF), John Sheridan (FF) and Jim Tenanty (Ind).

The seven Sinn Féin councillors, Joanna Byrne, Edel Corrigan, Tom Cunningham, Pearse McGeough, Kevin Meenan, Tomás Sharkey and Antóin Watters all backed Cllr Meenan, as did Independent, Maeve Yore.

Independent councillors, Hugh Conlon and Paddy McQuillan abstained, while Cllr Eileen Tully (FG) and Cllr Pio Smith (Lab) were absent.

The seat vacated by John McGahon (FG) following his election to the Seanad has yet to be filled.

In the vote for leas-cathaoirleach, Cllr Hall defeated Cllr Joanna Byrne.

Cllr Minogue succeeded Cllr Liam Reilly, holder of the office for the last two years, and became the first female cathaoirleach since Jacqui McConville in 2002-'03.

She said it was a great honour and a privilege, and looked forward to helping make Louth 'a great place to do business and set up home'.

She also remembered her late Fine Gael colleague Cllr Oliver Tully who passed away last year.

While there were cross-party congratulations and good wishes for Cllr Minogue, the pact rankled Cllr McQuillan.

'We have to look at the way we do politics,' he said.

'The vote should be democratic and inclusive, but it's undemocratic and exclusive.

'Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour are getting a monopoly of positions. We can say, that's the way it is, but that doesn't make it right.'

Cllr Joanna Byrne said nobody 'outside the pact' begrudges the winners, 'but every councillor here is capable'.

She added it was important to recognise people and not exclude them because they were not in 'the right party'.

'Politics is the art of persuasion. It's about a willingness to work and compromise. That is democracy,' countered Cllr Coffey.

However, Cllr Corrigan said she took issue with those remarks.

'I was never offered to be spoken to about any arrangements or pacts.'

Cllr Keelan said the late Sinn Féin councillor Seán Kenna was elected leas-cathaoirleach through a SF-FF pact.

He added the two parties had a pact on the former Dundalk town council between 1999 and 2004, and that Cllr Meenan was a member at the time.

Cllr Meenan confirmed that, but said 'it didn't sit right with me at the time'.

He continued parties were entitled 'to do what they do', but suggested the D'Hondt system was the better way to go, and urged people to look at it.

Drogheda Independent