Outgoing Mayor of Shannon, Michael Fleming has been accused of breaking a power-sharing pact, which facilitated the surprise election of Councillor Greg Duff to the position.
Councillor Patricia McCarthy was expected to become the last Mayor of Shannon before the town authority is abolished after the 2014 Local Elections in line with an electoral pact agreed with Fine Gael and some Independent councillors.
However, in a dramatic turn of events Councillor Fleming (FG) broke party ranks at the annual general meeting of Shannon Town Council on Tuesday night to ensure Councillor Duff beat the favourite, Councillor McCarthy, 5-4 after a vote.
Councillor Duff became mayor for the second time thanks to the support from his Labour colleague, Tony McMahon, Councillor Gerry Flynn (Independent) and Cathy McCafferty (Independent) and Councillor Fleming.
Councillor McCarthy was supported by two Fine Gael Councillors Vincent Coleman, Sean McLoughlin and Mary Brennan (Independent).
The Clare Champion has learned that a power-sharing agreement for the position of mayor, deputy mayor and a number of council sub-committees was signed by Councillors Mary Brennan (Independent), Michael Fleming (FG), Patricia McCarthy (Independent), Sean McLoughlin (FG) and Tony Mulchay (FG) on June 11, 2009.
When Councillor Mulcahy was elected to the Senate he was replaced by Councillor Vincent Coleman (FG) who gave a verbal commitment he would abide by this agreement and duly did.
While Councillor McCarthy pledged her full co-operation for the mayor, she admitted she was disappointed with what had happened as Councillor Fleming had signed an agreement stating he would support her bid for mayor in the final year of the council.
“Once I give my word I don’t change it. If you don’t have a word you have nothing and you debase politics. I am disappointed with what has happened here tonight and the fact two Labour councillors acted to make sure I didn’t get elected,” she said.
While Councillor Fleming explained he was voting in line with the national coalition between Fine Gael and Labour, he declined to make any comment on Councillor McCarthy’s charge at the meeting.
Stating all councillors had to be “fair to each other”, he said after spending four years on the council “one side of the table” had most of the positions, which he wasn’t happy with.
Expressing his disappointment with Minister Hogan’s decision to abolish the town council, he felt the minister could have started his cuts at a higher political level instead of the grassroots.
Efforts by The Clare Champion to contact Councillor Fleming on Wednesday proved unsuccessful.
Proposing Councillor McCarthy for mayor, Councillor Sean McLoughlin said she always put the town first since her election to the council.
Councillor McLoughlin admitted he was “embarrassed” that a Fine Gael Environment Minister, Phil Hogan had ensured this would be the last mayoral election, which was a “sad day” for the town.
Councillor McCarthy’s nomination was supported by Councillor Vincent Coleman. However, an election ensued when Councillor Tony McMahon proposed Councillor Duff and this was quickly seconded by Councillor Gerry Flynn who felt he had the made a significant contribution to the town.
While Councillor Duff regretted the fact that some councillors had voted against him, he stressed it was vital that all councillors on the town council worked together in partnership for the development of the town over the coming year.
Following his election in 2004, the trade unionist recalled he didn’t get an “easy ride” politically when he took an unpopular stance against the “militarisation” of Shannon Airport.
He hoped efforts would be made by the new Shannon Airport Authority to increase the marketing and promotion of the airport, which was vital as the airport was the key economic driver for the entire region.
Following the break from the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), he warned the “blame can’t be laid at any other door” for the new independent Shannon Airport Authority.
In addition to reviewing all the civic occasions and events he was invited to during the year, the outgoing mayor admitted he really enjoyed this performing this role, which was a huge honour and responsibility.
Councillor McMahon said he had no doubt the new mayor would put the interests of Shannon as the first priority and praised him for having a “great sense of social justice”.
While Councillor McLoughlin admitted the new mayor wasn’t his choice, he pledged to support him as long as he stuck to doing what he set out to do.