Tuesday 16 July 2019

Sweetheart ‘troika’ pact sews up positions for next five years

Wexford’s newly-elected county councillors gather for their first meeting at Council Buildings, with Wexford Co Council CE, Tom Enright. Missing from the photo are councillors Jim Moore and John O’Rourke
Wexford’s newly-elected county councillors gather for their first meeting at Council Buildings, with Wexford Co Council CE, Tom Enright. Missing from the photo are councillors Jim Moore and John O’Rourke
Cllr Michael Sheehan, newly elected chairman and Cllr Lisa McDonald, the new vice-chair

Fianna Fáil are in charge of the new look Wexford County Council after a pact was agreed ahead of Friday's first meeting of the body.

A 12 point agreement was reached between Fianna Fáil, Labour and Independent councillors 'to operate' Wexford County Council over the next five years.

The five year deal includes the sharing of positions but also sets out an agreed policy agenda for the new Council.

All members of this Civic Alliance and any co-optees in their place had to sign the agreement in writing for it to be binding.

The Independent councillors in the pact are Leonard Kelly, Pat Barden, Anthony Connick, Mary Farrell and Ger Carthy, with Labour's George Lawlor and Maura Bell also propping up the rainbow coalition.

An alternative grouping was formed prior to the meeting by the two Sinn Fein councillors Tom Forde and Fionntáin Ó'Suilleabháin, along with Jim Codd of Aontu, Jackser Owens and John O'Rourke.

Dubbed a 'Civic Alliance' the councillors have vowed to set about tackling the housing crisis in Co Wexford as its top priority and has also committed to supporting the council's current economic plan. There will be a greater emphasis on environment and climate change, as well as prioritising the development of Rosslare Port, the Fianna Fáil group leader on the council Cllr Malcolm Byrne said.

Cllr Byrne described the plan as 'ambitious but achievable' and praised the constructive spirit of the talks that led to the deal in which Labour, represented by George Lawlor and the Independent grouping, represented by Ger Carthy, took part. Along with Malcolm Byrne, the Fianna Fáil negotiating team comprised Barbara Anne Murphy, Joe Sullivan and Michael Whelan.

Michael Sheehan from New Ross was elected as the new Cathaoirleach by a vote of 19 to eight for Fine Gael Cllr Frank Staples. Fianna Fail Cllr Lisa MacDonald from Piercestown was elected as the new Leas-Cathaoirleach.

A number of other plumb chairmanship positions were also filled. Cllr Byrne said: 'Members will be obliged to vote for agreed candidates for all positions and to work together to agree to the council Budget annually. This arrangement does not apply to votes on motions at council level or to the operation of the municipal districts. Representatives of the Alliance, on behalf of Fianna Fáil, Labour and Independents shall meet occasionally to review this alliance and in the event of any dispute.'

The alliance has promised to tackle scourge of derelict buildings, in both urban and rural areas, combat climate change, promote biodiversity and a healthy environment, ban the use of smoky coals in the county, tackle disadvantage and social exclusion, develop the main streets in our towns and villages as economic and social hubs, support the development of Rosslare Europort, strenuously lobby for the construction of the Oylegate to Rosslare Harbour motorway and the upgrading of the Rosslare to Dublin rail line as core pieces of infrastructure for the county.

The alliance will also support the development of a University for the South East, including a Wexford campus, as well as maximising the educational opportunities of all our citizens, including planning for future school and other education and training needs in the county.

'We will support the continued development of the US Georgia State University campus in Wexford.'

The councillors promise to promote Wexford as Ireland's creative county and have committed to implementing the council's Arts strategy and develop tourism as a key industry for Wexford.

They will support the roll-out of high speed broadband services across the county and work to ensure that Wexford can gain opportunities from new technologies and lobby for finance to rural road network.

'Wexford County Council is committed to promoting the physical and mental well-being of all our citizens and we will be a pioneering local authority in how we address public health and well-being. As a Council, we will also continue to campaign to ensure that there are adequate Child and Adolescent, as well as Adult Mental Health Services available in the county.'

The councillors also vowed to resist continued efforts by central government to undermine local councils and to find a fairer way of funding local government.

'We believe that the current commercial rates model of funding is outdated and unfair and will seek and support a national review to ensure appropriate modern mechanisms to fund local government. We will support new initiatives to greater engage the public with the work of the County Council and to input into policy.'

New Ross Standard