Monday’s vote by Louth County councillors to reject the local authority’s 2018 budget has left the future of the body up in the air. Just seven councillors – six Fine Gael and one from Labour – voted for the budget to pass, but 21 voted against. This means the council itself risks being dissolved and the Minister for Local Government Eoghan Murphy could appoint a Special Commissioner to take their place, if the issue isn’t resolved.
All six Ardee Municipal District councillors have had their say on the matter in the last 48 hours. Two of them – Colm Markey and Dolores Minogue – voted to push the budget through, while Liam Reilly, Jim Tenanty, Pearse McGeough and Tom Cunningham voted to reject it.
Many issues appear to be at play here. A general unhappiness with how the council is run, budgetary disagreements and more. Could the people of Louth have to go without public representatives until the next local elections, pencilled in for June in 2019? If Minister Murphy decides to dissolve Louth CoCo, yes. Here’s what your local councillors have had to say on the matter.
“There is a real possibility that the council could be abolished. We want the opportunity to have a further conversation in terms of agreeing a budget and other issues that were raised on the day. The reality is we actually voted for an adjournment and we were proposing to adjourn it for a week. That lost out by a narrow number of votes.
“Then, ultimately, it went to pass the budget or reject the budget and by rejecting the budget, we have left ourselves in situation where it is in the hands of the Minister now. Hopefully, he will see good sense and bring it back to the council.
“Given the conversation that was had, I would feel there is a real possibility that we could agree a budget. One of the frustrations in relation to Monday was we wanted more conversation, I think everyone did. We wanted more clarity on the numbers.
Speaking to The Michael Reade Show on LMFM, he continued, “There was a lot of good stuff in the budget but there was clearly issues people had. Even from the people who voted against it, I did get the sense we could come to a resolution on it.
“There’s a frustration about where to find money. I think we’ve taken the powers out of our hands. I think there was two issues here – an element of grandstanding but I also think there is a genuine issue where it’s hard for councillors to get a handle on the figures to make a genuine proposal. I also think there are other issues in the background,” he told LMFM on Tuesday.
“There’s total disillusionment. Councillors have no say. It’s hitting back against negativity that is shown towards councillors. Council officials are unresponsive to queries. This is a vote against the top table. I, personally, couldn’t see the rates increased. It’s not fair, people can’t afford to pay. I voted against the Budget on that basis,” he told ThisIsArdee.ie after Monday’s budget meeting.
“Nothing is getting done. There’s elements of the budget that I don’t agree with and I have issues with some of the budget but I can have a mature conversation and come to a resolution with officials and the chief executive.
“I support footpaths, roads, Tidy Towns, libraries. We’re local politicians and we’re voted in on a democratic process to work for the constituents.
“It (a dissolution) will be a disaster for Louth, we were elected and it’s for five years. All 29 councillors will be finished if the council is dissolved. I hope, for the sake of the council, the Minister gives us the seven days.”
“We have been opposed to this for some time and seemingly more people have seen the light. Now, they’re not happy about it either. In any job, you have to have principles. If you haven’t got a wee bit of backbone….you take these decisions in light of the information but before you and you make a choice.”If you’re strong, you vote to your conscience.
“We’re in unchartered territory at the moment, we’ll see what happens. It will be interesting. We were all elected in 2014 to represent the people and that’s what I’m doing. I’m standing up for the people in this county and I’m not ashamed to do it either, regardless of the consequences.”
Meanwhile, councillors from Drogheda and Dundalk have also had their say on the budget vote down.
“Despite councillors being warned they may lose their jobs and the fact the Minister may abolish the council and appoint a Commissioner to run the county, the majority of councillors still proceeded to vote as per my proposal to vote and reject the budget.
“The Department will now get involved and the Minister. When elected representatives are being shut out of the running of the county by officials we must act and a vote against the budget is a responsible use of our powers,” he said in a statement to ThisIsArdee.ie.
“We are a statutory body voting on a €100 million budget and we are getting someone to run out and ring the department to find out what happens next which is ridiculous, we need to vote and have the Minister notified and we can then have the Minister have a public enquiry as to how the council is operating.”
“I voted against the Budget yesterday – for the last three years since I was elected Fine Gael Government have consistently reduced income for our county for essential services, this year by €750k. This is not acceptable to me,” Yore wrote on Facebook.
“I also have raised issues over accountability, value for money and standard of work on projects carried out across our county. There also appears to be a problem with communication between councillors and council which again I have raised several times.
“I did not take this decision lightly and voted with my conscience as I have done since elected. 21 Councillors voted against the Budget – six Fine Gael Councillors and one Labour Councillor voted for it which they are entitled to do. I may be sacked by Minister Murphy now but I feel I have to stand up for the people of our county as I was elected to do.”
How the Louth CoCo councillors voted
- FOR BUDGET (7) – Pio Smith (Labour), Dolores Minogue, Colm Markey, Maria Doyle, Richie Culhane, Oliver Tully, John McGahon (all Fine Gael)
- AGAINST BUDGET (21) – Tom Cunningham, Pearse McGeough, David Saurin, Kenneth Flood, Joanna Byrne, Edel Corrigan, Antoin Watters, Anne Campbell, Ruairi O’Murchu, Tomas Sharkey (all Sin Fein), Marianne Butler, Mark Dearey (both Green Party), Liam Reilly, Peter Savage, Conor Keelan, Thomas Byrne (Fianna Fail), Paul Bell (Labour), Jim Tenanty, Kevin Callan, Maeve Yore, Frank Godfrey (Non Party)