By Dan Danaher
THE last meeting of Shannon Town Council ended in disarray this week, after a row erupted over the distribution of €111,000 in funding for community projects.
Claim and counter-claim were levelled by councillors, who left the meeting early on Tuesday night, after a divisive split emerged concerning counter-proposals over where the last major tranche of funding should be spent in the county’s second largest town.
Mayor of Shannon, Councillor Greg Duff was subjected to stinging criticism from Councillor Gerry Flynn and Councillor Michael Fleming, after he used his casting vote to ensure a proposal from Councillor Patricia McCarthy, Mary Brennan and Vincent Coleman was passed by a four-to-three margin.
Before he left the meeting, Councillor Flynn declared to Mayor Duff, “Well done, you got your way.”
Having supported Councillor Duff in the mayoral election, Councillor Fleming stated he was “disappointed” with the mayor and condemned his decision to use his casting vote as a “disgrace”.
However, Mayor Duff rejected these political charges, insisting he voted in the best interests of the people of Shannon.
The mayor expressed concern that whatever statement he made on the night, it would be “twisted” by some in the local media.
Councillors Flynn, Fleming and Cathy McCafferty left the meeting early, before proceedings finally came to an end, when tributes were paid to council officials and elected members who had served the authority over its 32-year history.
The political fall-out continued after the meeting this week, with Councillor Flynn claiming the whole community fund issue was “contrived” and “choreographed” by six councillors, to ensure that one proposal would be passed at the council.
The independent councillor claimed that it was pre-arranged for two councillors to excuse themselves – Councillor Sean McLoughlin and Councillor Tony McMahon – because of their involvement in some of the proposed beneficaries of funding, leaving a majority of four to ensure the proposal tabled by three councillors would be approved.
Councillor Flynn also alleged that the proposals he put forward and other suggested beneficaries by Councillors Fleming and McCafferty were not seriously considered at the meeting.
However, this was rejected by the main mover of the adopted proposal, Councillor Patricia McCarthy, who said she was sick and tired of the “innuendo” and accusations levelled by Councillor Flynn.
Councillor McCarthy said the three councillors didn’t speak to Councillor McLoughlin and McMahon because they were aware of a possible perceived conflict of interest considering their involvement in some group and did circulate their proposal to Mayor Duff out of courtesy.
She pointed out the three councillors were the only ones to put a written proposal before the meeting and noted other councillors who put forward counter-proposals at the meeting neglected to avail of this option, which she maintained was the best way of approaching the distribution of a large amount of community funds.
Councillor Flynn insisted on Wednesday that the meeting was finished at 8.30pm, in compliance with standing orders. However, five other councillors and council management felt proceedings hadn’t concluded and stayed on to express their views on the demise of the town authority.
Earlier in the meeting, Councillor McCarthy presented a lengthy written submission on where the €111,000 should be spent. It included €40,000 towards the provision of new intereactive equipment and the upgrade of Tír na nÓg playground and €20,000 towards the provision of a playground in Drumgeely.
As this project is in the early stages of development, it was stipulated that Clare County Council retain the money until the committee are in a position to bring the project to a conclusion.
The committee is to be allowed two years to develop the project. If the playground fails to proceed, the money must be used to improve those sections of the River Walk that are not in danger of erosion due to flooding or breaches or the embankments.
Councillor McCarthy proposed €15,000 should be spent towards the improvement of Tullyvarraga Hall. Clare County Council will be requested to work with and reach agreement with the leasers on how best to expend this allocation, to ensure the viability of this community building into the future.
A sum of €15,000 is to be allocated towards The Venue arts project and the committee should be allowed two years to develop the project. Should the project fail to proceed, then the allocated money must be used to improve those sections of the river walk that are not in danger of erosion.
Six primary schools in Shannon will benefit from €2,000 apiece, while a €5,000 grant will be given to Shannon Senior Citizens, Purcell Park.
A sum of €2,000 will be given to St Senan’s parish, towards the production of the social history of Shannon and €2,000 to Club na Sionna, towards the 1916 Shannon Commemorations Programme. As this programme is in the early stages of preparation, the money is to be retained by the county council and released on completion of the commemorations and the submission of accounts by Club na Sionna.
Councillor McCarthy was supported by Councillor Brennan and Coleman, who felt this proposal benefited a wide variety of groups across the generations.
At a previous meeting, a lot of debate centred around a motion proposed by Councillor Michael Fleming, Gerry Flynn, Vincent Coleman and Cathy McCafferty.
They proposed that €30,000 should go to the provision of personal alarms and home supports for the elderly and people with disabilities, €11,000 for the provision of defibrillators in the community, €30,000 for the refurbishment of Tullyvarraga Community Hall and €40,000 to the Drumgeely Playground Committee.
Councillor Flynn pointed out Councillor Coleman needed to make up his mind which proposal he was now supporting, considering he supported the previous one. Councillor Coleman replied he supported the latest proposal, as he felt it was a better one.
Councillors Fleming, McCafferty and Flynn each made a case for allocating sums of money in a counter-proposal, which wasn’t subsequently supported.
Councillor McCafferty pointed out that defibrillators saved lives, while Councillor Fleming felt that €30,000 should be allocated to The Venue project and €5,000 should be used to purchase alarm pendants for the elderly.