Veteran Fine Gael councillor Ger Darcy was elected chair of Nenagh Municipal District following a heated debate on how council leaders should be elected.
Cllr Darcy from Ardcroney, who joined the council in 1991, replaces Labour’s Cllr Fiona Bonfield, who was elected chair in her first term as a councillor.
However, Cllr Darcy’s nomination was not without rancour with Cllr Seamus Morris proposing the MDC adopt the d’Hondt system to elect leaders. Under that system, the five councillors with the highest number of first preferences would be chair. That would have given the nod to Cllr Joe Hannigan last year.
“I propose the d’Hondt system to replace the old dinosaur system of the past. The last time out the old system was rejected by the electorate,” said Cllr Morris.
“The old system excludes the people who got the votes, including Nenagh people. The pact system will be rejected at the next election,” he said
The Sinn Fein councillor proposed that under d’Hondt he would be the next chair and after his motion was seconded by Cllr Joe Hannigan the Independent councillor said he believed he should be next in line.
Cllr Morris agreed to step aside to allow Cllr Hannigan the chair if the d’Hondt system was accepted.
“You have to look at what is the right and fair thing to do,” said Cllr Hannigan. “We are just making a statement and hopefully in future people won’t have to be led by party politics.”
Cllr Michael O’Meara, Independent, while wanting to see change and said: “I try to take a realistic approach. This is a red herring because we can’t elect the chair. It’s a waste of time.”
Following a vote, Cllr Darcy was elected by five votes to four. Cllrs Phyll Bugler, Fiona Bonfield, Mattie Ryan, Ger Darcy and John Carroll voted for Cllr Darcy, with Cllrs Morris, O’Meara, Hannigan and Hughie McGrath voting for Cllr Hannigan.
“Politics is about the majority,” said Cllr Darcy. “Like it or not, those who supported Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail were greater than the others.”
However, Cllr Morris replied: “I disagree that politics is about majorities. There was a time when the bigger parties lorded it over the smaller parties and Independents, but those days are changing.”
In his acceptance speech, Cllr Darcy urged that the council “drive on as a district”.
He pointed to some of the major events coming up in the next year, including Nenagh hosting its first Munster Fleadh in July, the new County Development Plan and the centenary of the Easter Rising in 1916.
“We should take the opportunity to showcase Tipperary,” he said.
Cllr Darcy also urged that the council be involved in the proposed National Spatial Policy review, saying: “We don’t want to miss the bus this time. We are seen as a hub.”
Stepping down, Cllr Bonfield said it had been an honour and a privilege for her, her family and Labour Party to have been chair of Nenagh MDC.
She thanked Cllr McGrath as her deputy during the year, and paid a special tribute to district administrator Rosemary Joyce, who she said was a “friend for life”.
Cllr Bonfield was praised by her fellow councillors for the manner in which she had carried out her duties.