THURLES Town Council members had to dust off the town’s constitution rule book at this month’s meeting due to a three-way political split between the Councillors. A nomination vote to elect a new member to the Board of management of North Tipperary Leader Partnership Ltd. - a role which comes with significant perks and expenses - exposed deep divisions between members.
North Tipperary Leader Partnership (NTLP) is involved in social entrepreneurship, education and development across the county, having been amalgamated from previous civic bodies such as Roscrea 2000 and the Nenagh Community Network. Cllr Tom Moylan recently chose not to resume a seat on the Board he had occupied for about three years, leaving open a position for a Thurles Town Councillor to fill. Each Town Council in North Tipp is entitled to voice on the Board, said Town Manager Matt Shortt.
Cllr John Kenehan proposed Mayor Michael Cleary for the seat, Cllr David Doran put forward Cllr Jim Ryan, and Cllr Michael Grogan proposed Cllr Evelyn Nevin. Each of the nominees received three votes. The elected member requires at least five votes.
Mr Shortt told members that the casting vote can be made by the Chairman, Michael Cleary. However, Cllr Jim Ryan said this could create a conflict of interest as the Chairman would be voting for himself. Cllr Grogan said he thought the Chairman had an unfair advantage in the ballot as he had learned about the position coming up before any of the other Councillors. Reading from the Thurles Town Council Constitution rule book, Mr Shortt said the member had to be elected by a majority of the members present. This would mean Cllr Cleary would have two votes for himself, pointed out Cllr Doran. Cllr Noel O’Dwyer said they should all have been notified about the vote well in advance of the meeting.
Cllr Ryan said the Mayor had an “unfair advantage” in that he had time to canvass other members of the Council over the phone. “We only learned about this on Thursday. There’s something wrong with the whole system,” said Cllr Ryan.
Mayor Michael Cleary said he had been informed from Cllr Moylan himself, and rang each of the members. “You told us it’s a Fine Gael seat,” said Cllr Nevin. Cllr Cleary said Cllr Nevin and Cllr Grogan had misinterpreted his remarks over the phone. Cllr Ryan suggested putting the three names into a hat and pulling one out. “That’s not in the act,” said Mr Shortt. Cllr Doran proposed that the matter be deferred to the next meeting in November. Mayor Cleary said he wished the matter to be finalised that night. “I formally withdraw my name from the process. I thank my proposer and seconder. I no longer wish to go for the position,” said the Mayor. A second vote went as follows: Cllr Cleary (abstain), David Doran (for Jim Ryan), Ger Fogarty (Nevin), Michael Grogan (Nevin), Kenehan (Nevin), Kennedy (Nevin), Noel O’Dwyer (Ryan), while Cllrs Nevin and Ryan voted for themselves. Mayor Cleary officially congratulated Cllr Nevin, and wished her well in her new role.