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Two councillors threaten to walk away from politics after budget row

Keelan, Martin, Sharkey
Cllr Conor Keelan, Joan Martin and Cllr Tomas Sharkey. Photo Credit: Kathy Gilroy-Barry.

Two Dundalk Municipal District councillors threatened to quit politics on Thursday night in the aftermath of the decision made to reverse the move which would see the €225,000 of discretionary money available to three districts in the county be divided by population, rather than equally.

Fianna Fáil councillor Conor Keelan and Sinn Féin’s Tomas Sharkey both threatened to walk away from the political sphere if there was a failure from all stakeholders to meaningfully engage on the best way to distribute funds across municipal areas like Dundalk, Drogheda and Ardee.

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Meanwhile, Louth County Council Chief Executive Joan Martin said she “resented” a claim made by Cllr Keelan that she should have personally intervened in the matter.

The Cllr had actually said that he felt the council executive should have opened a discussion among councillors after the 2014 and 2019 elections as to how best such money should be distributed. But Ms Martin considered the comments a personal attack on her, saying she had no business to get involved in such discussions.

Speaking at Thursday evening’s readjourned budget meeting, Cllr Keelan confirmed he was prepared to withdraw the amendment – it actually required a vote to remove it from the Budget, after it was carried on Monday – and said this was something he made been advocating for some time.

“In 2014, I highlighted my concerns over how the Municipal District budget was allocated. I’ve been consistent with my concerns,” he said, adding that he “had an issue” with suggestions how be proposed the change undermined fellow councillors.

“Had my amendment been defeated, I would have intended to vote for the Budget on Monday. The executive could and should have addressed this matter in 2014 and again in 2019,” he added, calling for a “degree of proportionality” in how the funding is distributed.

“My understanding is that whips are amenable to discussion on this matter. I anticipate meaningful engagement, otherwise I will revisit it in the future. If it ever becomes controversial to seek additional funding to which the district is entitled, than I will quit politics.”

He acknowledged support of fellow Dundalk Municipal District councillors Marianne Butler (Green Party), Andrea McKevitt, Sean Kelly (both Fianna Fáil) and Maeve Yore (Independent).

In support of Cllr Keelan, Cllr Sharkey said that Louth was an “exception to the rule when it comes to per capita funding in this particular area, across municipal districts.” He also suggested he would leave politics should a discussion not be held on the matter.

“If all the people in county Louth aren’t treated equal, like Conor Keelan, I will discontinue in politics,” he said.

Ms Martin aired her displeasure with Cllr Keelan’s comments, saying: “I really resent you trying to blame me for a row caused between members on the floor. It is not my place to adjudicate on something like that. There is a very long history in this council of memberships and funding being divided across the districts on an equal basis.

“It is not an unusual thing. I will not be dragged into a row between members.”

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