A RATHER unfortunate row between town councillors and the local twinning association was resolved at Tuesday night’s meeting of the town council, at which two representatives of the association spoke.
Pat Costello and John O’Brien of the twinning association attended and said upset had been caused following the reporting of comments made at an earlier meeting of the council.
Mr Costello said the group had been “aggrieved and upset” following reports of the April meeting in The Clare Champion and Clare Courier and that they were attending “to redress the damage to the association and the members and to put on record the facts”.
Mr O’Brien referred to comments made by Mayor of Shannon Mary Brennan at the earlier meeting when she said she would be reluctant to go to a twinning meeting on her own again. She had also said she wasn’t introduced to visitors from Guingamp at a St Patrick’s Day event.
Mr O’Brien said the meeting she had referred to was in April of last year, before she had become mayor. He said many of those attending the meeting didn’t know she was a member of the town council and that she didn’t introduce herself. At one stage, the mayor expressed her unfamiliarity, he said, and following this a comment was made “If it’s any consolation, we don’t know who you are either”.
Reference was also made at April meeting of an event held on St Patrick’s Day at which the mayor was not introduced to visitors from Guingamp. At Tuesday’s meeting, Mr Costello outlined some of the background to that event and said the association had been honoured to be given the position of grand marshall at the St Patrick’s Day parade and that a group of people had come to Shannon for it. He said only one of that group had actually been at the event in Wolfe Tones, during the time she was in attendance.
Mr O’Brien referred to a quote attributed to Councillor Cathy McCafferty in which she queried if receipts were provided by the group in relation to monies received. He said that in actual fact, the association does not receive any money from the council, so the question of receipts does not arise. Mr O’Brien said the council host a dinner for visitors every three years, for which the association is very grateful. Later in the meeting, Councillor McCafferty said she had wanted to establish the links between the council and the group and that at no stage had any offence been meant.
Referring to a statement made by Councillor Sean McLoughlin about the Mayor of Shannon being the honorary president of the twinning association, Mr O’Brien said he had sought written evidence of this, but hadn’t found any. He did pay tribute to the role played by Councillor McLoughlin in relation to the twinning relationship while mayor, saying he had “ably and eloquently” represented the town.
Mr Fitzgerald said the twinning association has endeavoured to promote Shannon and its people, while he said the original idea of twinning had been to foster reconciliation and friendship between communities. He also said he wanted to “reject vigorously any suggestion the association has or would disrespect the office of mayor and the town council”.
Councillor Flynn was quoted after the April meeting as saying what had happened had been an insult to the mayor but defended himself saying it was his duty to protect the mayor.
Twinning association representatives referred to reports in The Clare Champion and the Clare Courier, however, Councillor Flynn was critical of what had appeared in the Clare County Express.
He said the publication is very critical of the council. “I never saw a reporter at a meeting but there is a constant attack,” he commented.
He said the person writing the reports for the County Express should be “flushed out”. Councillor Flynn also claimed items discussed by the council members in committee have been reported on in the County Express.
Addressing the meeting, the mayor said that the late Tomás Mac Cormaic had asked her to attend the twinning meeting but he had not been able to attend himself as it turned out, leaving her feeling a bit out of place.
She said she hadn’t claimed to be mayor at the meeting and she had said at it, “I don’t know why I’m here, I didn’t know I was involved”.
At the April meeting, she said she hadn’t met the French visitors as there had been no introduction.
Councillor Brennan said she had “no hidden agenda” with the town twinning and that she had been “very green” going into a meeting that had been very well attended. She also said she had great respect for the group.
Councillor McLoughlin said the late Tomás Mac Cormaic had told him the mayor was honorary president of the twinning association. He said he hoped the discussion would “clear the air and that we’ll have a good relationship”.
Labour party Councillor Greg Duff said he was sorry the two twinning representatives had to come to the meeting and that those involved with the group were “all honourable people”.
Mr Costello said he wished to apologise for something he said on the night of the meeting and explained it had been meant in jest. “If in the course of those exchanges what was delivered in a flippant manner caused you to feel offended, I apologise,” he said.
With regard to the event in Wolfe Tones, he said that he had “profound respect for people’s privacy”.
Councillor Brennan thanked him for the apology and said she wanted to “apologise if I offended anyone”.
She said if the comment hadn’t been made at the meeting she attended, she would have introduced herself at the St Patrick’s Day event. “I never intended to insult or hurt any association,” she added.
Councillor Tony McMahon said the matter had been unfortunate and there was much for both sides to reflect on. Referring to the Clare County Express coverage, he said, “It is annoying – it’s more than annoying, it’s unfair and something we should address at another time”.
He said if someone is going to write something derogatory they should have the courage to put their name to it. Later in the meeting, it was decided to write to the Clare County Express about the coverage of the town council.
Independent Patricia McCarthy said it had been agreed from the very beginning that the chairperson of the council would be president of the twinning association, while she said the group have helped to foster friendship and co-operation.
In the course of his criticism of the Clare County Express, Councillor Flynn said sometimes he had issues with other papers and on occasion wondered was he attending the same meetings as their reporters. Councillor McCarthy said she agreed with him on this and claimed some reports make it look like she wasn’t even attending the meetings.
Mr Costello and Mr O’Brien of the twinning association left the meeting after shaking hands warmly with a number of councillors and the disagreement had clearly been put to bed.