*Cllr Johnny Flynn. Photograph: Chris Copley

EXITING Ennis representative, Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) has resigned from Fine Gael over the lack of support received from party colleagues regarding the plans for the Ennis 2040 strategy.

An initial board member of the Ennis 2040 DAC, Cllr Flynn has become a vocal opponent to aspects of the strategy.

At last week’s briefing to elected members of the County Council, the Ennis native was shouted at by his party colleague, the Cathaoirleach, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) while Ennis 2040 Chief Operating Officer, Kevin Corrigan’s flippant remark, “Every time he appears he resigned from the DAC for a different reason, he resigned with a letter over the data centre,” about Cllr Flynn prompted the Chief Executive of the Council to intervene and issue an apology to the former Mayor of Ennis for the comments.

None of the Fine Gael councillors in attendance spoke in defence of Cllr Flynn at the briefing with Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) and Cllr Pat Burke (FG) instead voicing their backing for the Ennis 2040 strategy.

On Tuesday, Cllr Flynn confirmed to The Clare Echo that he was resigning his membership from Fine Gael. “I’m doing so as it has been made apparent over the last week that the two current Ennis Municipal District Fine Gael councillors and other sitting Fine Gael councillors continue to fully support what I consider to be destructive Council and Ennis 2040 DAC plans for Ennis town centre. This is despite that all councillors , including Fine Gael ones, received written confirmation last October that a petition signed by 3,700 people was handed into the council opposing the plans”.

A two-time Mayor of the Ennis MD, Cllr Flynn was tipped as the favourite to top the poll for the second time in his career in politics for June’s local elections before announcing his decision to bow out in an exclusive interview with The Clare Echo back in February. He was first elected to Ennis Town Council in 2004, remaining there until its abolition in 2014 while he has prevailed in three elections to Clare County Council (2009, 2014 and 2019).

Viewed by party colleagues as “almost independent”, Cllr Flynn never attended a Fine Gael Ard Fhéis during his twenty years as an elected representative.

As an independent citizen, he intends to work and campaign against plans of the strategy for Abbey Street car park, Parnell Street car park and the Post Office field. “In addition I oppose the related proposal to build a replacement car park on the green area of Waterpark House, Drumbiggle, Ennis.The development would remove the commemorative garden and a scarce public park located there.

“I believe the unnecessary demolition of six cottages and a modern bungalow at the Francis Street Site by Ennis 2040 DAC was not right at a time of a housing crisis. The site was I understand it in the possession of The Housing Department of Clare County Council until The Chief Executive handed it over to the Ennis 2040 DAC thereby removing the opportunity to build social homes on a town centre site for the elderly and disabled”.

Speaking on The Electoral Chair, The Clare Echo’s political podcast, Cllr Flynn gave his reaction to the tense briefing. “It was the very first time in my twenty five years that a statutory notice of motion didn’t have a written response provided to the author of it and to the remaining councillors so in my view what we had was a PR exercise, it was to be for an hour, the standing orders say that fifteen minutes would be the length of the question to address what was in the notice of motion, we had forty five minutes, fifteen minutes from the Chief Executive not discussing the questions, fifteen minutes from the Director of Service and maybe a little bit more from the Chief Operating Officer, I was absolutely appalled that statutory procedures which are our constitution, it was a PR exercise, I imagine everything said was from PR pieces and for the media to fill in their newspapers this week. It was silencing the democrats, then they started using the switch, these people had an open mic and we were restricted to two minutes, the people in the public gallery were outraged”.

Flynn admitted he was shocked by the actions of Corrigan. “Kevin Corrigan took the opportunity at the very end to have a go at me on three issues, one that he claimed he was an employee of a public company, he is not, he is an employee of a private company and I had a senior counsel opinion on that, he is employed by a company which is set up by the Chief Executive under company law in 2014, it is a private limited company. He had a go on misleading facts, I was able to quote that they have organised a rolling three year PR contract with a Limerick based company, I understand €1000 has been spent, he said that wasn’t the figure and I was misleading with facts but I was able to demonstrate that they are trying to undermine Save Ennis Town as protesters, we’re not protesters, we’re concerned citizens. In June 2021, Clare county councillors voted to establish Ennis 2040, that is factually incorrect, the Chief Executive has admitted he set it up. The third thing he was having a go at me personally for was me resigning as a nominated councillor from Ennis 2040 which I did in September 2022 and he said I had one reason but now I have a load of other reasons, I was shocked for somebody to come into a Chamber and make that claim, the Chief Executive I think was shocked as well and he apologised, he gave me the opportunity to come back, because I was forced to sign a confidentiality agreement the issues I had with it and brought to the board on my term there were the reasons but I couldn’t explain them but because I was lodging a planning objection with the data centre and the building it is.. It was a very unusual.

Long-serving Cllr PJ Kelly (FF) also appeared as a guest on the podcast. He said of the COO’s remarks. “There was no need for it, there is a word called respect and two words called mutual respect, those were observed like the commandments, politics, this that and the other thing didn’t apply but it is a very important word”.

Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) said of the conduct, “I’ve never seen such arrogance in my life”. He added, “I felt so sorry to see a man of the quality of Johnny Flynn being maligned in that way, what the Chief Operating Officer said was he was making it up as he went along to suit particular occasions. The Cathaoirleach of the day and it must be that the Chief Executive has angel dust because every time the Cathaoirleach is put in place by the elected members they have a duty to work for us in a neutral way to protect the constitution of the county and democracy but unfortunately I have to say the Cathaoirleach lost it, there wasn’t fair play and the shouting, you don’t achieve anything by shouting”.

 

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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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