Fianna Fáil councillor John Sheridan has hit back at criticism towards his party after Monday morning’s contentious Louth County Council Budget 2021 meeting, defending his own personal voting record and saying he will “proudly fight for the people of Ardee and mid-Louth.”
Councillor Sheridan voted against an amendment put forward by party colleague Conor Keelan that sought to change how a discretionary pot of €225,000 would be split among the three districts in the county – Dundalk, Drogheda and Ardee.
Rather than splitting the money equally, €75,000 each, Cllr Keelan proposed the money was instead split based on population and number of elected representatives per area. His amendment was carried by 12 votes to 11, with one abstention.
That meant that the Dundalk district will now receive just over €100,000, Drogheda receive €77,586 and Ardee get €46,551 – a reduction of 38% in their annual discretionary budget. After the controversial move, a vote to pass the entire Budget for 2021 was lost, after a vote ended 12-12. Ardee Municipal District councillor Dolores Minogue cast the deciding vote.
Sheridan, Cathaoirleach of the Ardee Municipal District, was one of three Fianna Fáil councillors who voted against Cllr Keelan’s amendment, along with Cllr Liam Reilly and Drogheda-based Cllr James Byrne.
Cllr Keelan was supported in the vote by his fellow Dundalk Municipal District councillors Cllr Sean Kelly and Cllr Andrea McKevitt.
Speaking to LouthNow.ie on Wednesday, Cllr Sheridan described his party mate’s amendment as a smash-and-grab attempt at taking funds away from Ardee and mid Louth to boost coffers in Dundalk.
“I’m proud to have stood up for the people of Ardee and Mid Louth against a smash-and-grab attempt at funds for our community. There is nothing fair with a cut of 37% to the Ardee Municipal fund which would mean a reduction of nearly €28,449 for our community.
“This is a fund that in the past year has funded community text alerts groups, school traffic calming measures and CCTV for older people in their own home.”
Other spends include on a refurbishment of the Tierney/O’Carroll monument, the provision of a new toilet in Ardee Library, periodic speed measures at schools in the district.
“Councillors from the other areas have tried to justify this change on the basis of population size but this fund is used to help in a small way to bridge the gap between the serious lack of council resources in Ardee and Mid Louth compared to the larger urban areas of the County,” Cllr Sheridan continued.
LouthNow.ie understands that the Fianna Fáil members are taking part in a meeting via video conference on Wednesday evening to discuss how the amendment may impact on Thursday’s adjourned Budget meeting. It is believed that a new amendment will be put to council to revert to the original equal split of €75,000 each.
“I am the only Fianna Fáil councillor for Ardee and Mid Louth and I stood up for our community. Liam Reilly who previously represented the area also voted in favour of Ardee and Mid Louth. For the record, the only public representative from mid Louth to vote in favour of cutting funds to our community was from Sinn Féin, supported by all other Sinn Féin Councillors present in voting to reduce the Mid Louth community fund.”
The only party to vote in a bloc was Sinn Fein and, as Cllr Sheridan alluded to, one of their votes to lower the funding for Ardee was Cllr Pearse McGeough, a councillor in the Ardee area since 2004. Of Sinn Fein’s seven councillors, six represent the Dundalk and Drogheda areas.
“I voted down the budget as a whole because I couldn’t stand over a budget that cut vital funding to our community, and I stand by that decision.
The first term councillor, first elected in May last year, said he was disappointed at criticism aimed at his party by Cathaoirleach of Louth County Council Dolores Minogue (Fine Gael) on Monday, who claimed Ardee was “thrown under the bus.”
“I am disappointed to see comments on LouthNow.ie from Fine Gael casting blame on my party. That is simply not true and my voting record as the Fianna Fáil representative for Ardee and mid Louth shows that. I will always proudly fight for the people of Ardee and Mid Louth, doing the job our community elected me to do.”