*Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) and Cllr Pat Hayes (FF). 

ON A DAY when 125 years of Clare County Council was celebrated, two of the county’s longest-serving local representatives clashed over standing orders and procedure.

Adherence to standing orders prompted a long debate at Monday’s meeting of Clare County Council with Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) and Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) crossing swords. Cllr Flynn has subsequently accused Fianna Fáil of using their majority on the Council to “rip apart” democracy.

Since 2004 Cllr Flynn has chaired standing orders, a non-paid role within the Council, he claimed the rules were broken by Cllr Hayes at the March meeting when he used the planned visit of the Mayor of Clare, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) and the Chief Executive Pat Dowling to address the ongoing war in Palestine and urged the duo to tell any official they met in America that they had the power to bring an end to the war.

Flynn stressed that he was not opposed to the sentiment of what Cllr Hayes said but the procedure which he followed and sought for it to be removed from the minutes of the March meeting as they were about to be adopted on Monday. “It is setting a dangerous protocol,” he warned.

Minutes of the March meeting are “reflective of what was said,” Cllr Shane Talty (FF) said in response while criticising Cllr Flynn for trying “to referee a meeting a month late”.

Director of Service for Tourism, Leonard Cleary noted comments made by Cllr Flynn and the minutes, both of which presented a difficulty “in adherence strictly to the procedure”. He suggested utilising the standing orders committee to consider the matter as he felt a resolution was unlikely to come to fruition at the meeting.

This was rejected by Cllr Flynn, “That can’t work, the election is happening, with all due respect, standing orders wasn’t adhered to and there is an anomaly. You can leave this in, Cllr Hayes would be doing a disservice by leaving it here, we cannot have onerous statements. We all support Cllr Hayes’ statement but I won’t be supporting the minutes, I’ve a duty to make sure minutes are in order”.

Mayor Cooney requested a seconder for Cllr Flynn but none was forthcoming. “It is reflective of what I’ve done, nobody objected on the day, it is a critical and important issue,” Hayes replied.

From his seat, Cllr Flynn waved a copy of the book on signing orders which is signed by the Cathaoirleach, “you have to adhere to them, your signature is on the book, you’ve signed what I’m saying, the matters arising would be a solution but there’s no way I can stand over the way the minutes are written”.

Following this, Cllr Cooney noted, “it’s important we do our business right”. He asked the floor if they wished to leave it as is or take off the minutes.

Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) observed, “what is written here was reflective of the meeting. There was concern about where it was raised and when it was minuted, today’s matter is that it was dealt with at the time, if it was done erroneously it was up to Chair of Standing Orders to address then”. Cllr Flynn replied, “I’m not Cathaoirleach of the Council”.

Cleary told councillors, “We do have a long meeting and we’ve to try move things along. Two solutions have been raised, are either acceptable or do we need to call a vote,” he asked. He said Cllr Murphy has proposed we record and note observations, Cllr Flynn has raised an issue about it and the other option is to move it which is not acceptable to Cllr Hayes.

As Flynn failed to receive a seconder the minutes were recorded and noted as proposed by Cllr Murphy.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Cllr Flynn admitted, “I am not entirely surprised by the arrogance of Fianna Fáil members of Clare County Council in relation to their recent outrageous disregard for Standing Orders in Clare County Council”. The standing orders committee was established in 2004 as part of the power-sharing arrangement in the Council, it is comprised of two representatives from each of the three political groups in the local authority, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Technical Group made up of Independents and smaller parties. “I was appointed Chairman of this committee in 2004 and I have continued to hold that position for the past 20 years It is a non-paying role so that is probably the reason I have held the position for so long”.

He stated, “It is regrettable that twenty years on the arrogance of Fianna Fáil has returned and it is not surprising as they currently hold 13 positions out of 28 local authority members and when you add on a number of other members that would have previously been part of the family it is no wonder they are feeling those airs of superiority, of course the current situation of a three party government system that has Fine Gael, Greens and Fianna Fáil clinging on to power it is obvious that they feel invincible”. The Shannon representative has warned that a return to the “dominant position of Fianna Fáil” is likely following the local elections.

Monday’s clash was “the total breakdown of respect and democracy in the Council Chamber when standing orders were ripped apart by Fianna Fáil members,” Flynn felt. “Rules of engagement are common place in all walks of life and the important test is on how they are applied and in order to have confidence in the processes it is important that a fair and equitable approach is taken to the implementation of the rules. Councillors playing to the gallery for the sake of a few votes makes a mockery of democracy and undermines due process. The role of The Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council carries huge responsibility and it is so important that Standing Orders are recognised as a valuable document for the running of Council meetings. They are always open to scrutiny but have served democracy well,” he added.

Cllr Hayes told The Clare Echo he did not believe he broke standing orders. “It was an effort to raise an important issue and that our Council support it, I will not have it removed, a lot of people spoke in favour of me but a lot were concerned with the process of removing something which was recorded, if there was an issue a month ago that was the time to say it was not in order”.

Conditions in Gaza have got “ten times worse and it is a far more critical issue,” Cllr Hayes stated. “To think we’d rewrite the history books 125 years on from the first meeting of Clare County Council is an issue, it causes me serious grief and worry, it might be on edges of standing orders but it is a critical issue. It wasn’t a motion, it was a comment on a previous issue”.

Maghera based Hayes stressed, “I’m not there to break standing orders”. On the claims that Fianna Fáil used its majority to silence standing orders, he said, “I think in the principle of people were thinking can we remove an item raised by anyone any day if we do this, a lot of them weren’t looking at the issue it was the point of removing it”. He added, “I was glad of the backing of my party, it was a bolt out of the blue, I didn’t canvass anyone to support me, it was a good reaction from people that it seemed wrong”. Support was also voiced by Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) during the meeting.

For the March meeting, Cllr Cooney had invited residents of Raheen Community Hospital to attend the meeting. Cllr Flynn accused Cllr Hayes of ‘playing to the gallery’ for people in his own constituency, this was rejected by the East Clare representative who said he was unaware the Raheen delegation were to attend the meeting and he pointed out he issued press releases to media on the matter on the Sunday night before the meeting. “I’m not playing to the gallery, I believe in what I am saying, , it is something I seriously believe in. The whole crisis would be over if America pulled out at this minute, I won’t be silenced and I will continue to fight on it, it is such an important issue, I adhere to all standing orders and don’t believe I broke them”.

Hayes added, “I’m only sorry there was no vote because there was nobody to second the proposal from Cllr Flynn”.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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