By Carmel Hayes
ANGER erupted over a pointed jibe from a Sinn Féin councillor in Laois today, following the historic formation of a coalition Government involving Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party.
At the AGM of Laois County Council, Cllr Aidan Mullins (SF) provoked a strong reaction with a comment about the ongoing alliance between FF and FG on the council.
The alliance saw the election of Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald (FF) as new cathaoirleach today as part of a long-running pact between the two parties, with the support of Independent Cllr Ollie Clooney.
Condemning what he called “the politics of exclusion”, Cllr Mullins declared: “We now have what I call Real Fine Gael, with Independent councillor Ollie Clooney as Continuity Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil as Provisional Fine Gael.”
Veteran Fianna Fáil councillor Paddy Bracken strongly objected to the SF councillor’s remark, which he described as “hurtful”. Cllr Bracken shot back: “I resent that. I am not going to sit here and listen to that crap. I am Fianna Fáil and very proud of that.”
Cllr Paschal McEvoy (FF) said he was tired of listening to Sinn Féin “rhetoric”, as he recalled that then-councillor Brian Stanley TD (SF) joined up with Fine Gael and Independents to exclude Fianna Fáil on the county council from 2009 to 2011.
Cllr McEvoy said: “It can’t be one rule for Laois and another for elsewhere. This is going on since the foundation of the State.”
It was among a number of scenes of political drama at the AGM, which was appropriately held at Dunamaise Arts Centre theatre due to Covid-19 restrictions.
There was friendly political banter too, as outgoing chairman Cllr Aird (FG) welcomed “the end of Civil War politics” with the formation of a historic coalition Government.
Cllr Aird quipped: “I don’t know how many times Cllr Fitzgerald has called me a Blueshirt at council meetings. Is all that going to end now? Will Cllr Paschal McEvoy (FF) and Cllr Tom Mulhall (FG) be out waltzing together?!”
Cllr Aird said he never thought he would see the day when Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael went into Government together but it had finally happened and he welcomed it.
As she took the chair on the stage of the theatre, Cllr Fitzgerald pointedly remarked: “I am a proud member of Fianna Fáil, the Republican party.”
Cllr Fitzgerald, who is starting her second term in the council chair, defeated Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley (SF) for the role by 14 votes to five. The new vice-chairman is Cllr Conor Bergin (FG) from Borris-in-Ossory, who defeated Cllr Ben Brennan (IND) by the same margin.