The times they are a-changin’

Ancestors may have fought against each other in Civil War, but if last Friday’s first official meeting of Westmeath County Council was anything to go by, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have ‘married’ in Westmeath.

There may have been some mud slinging on the election campaign trail, but Civil War politics was parked with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael bedding themselves in a voting pact, which now sees Fianna Fáil taking the position of Cathaoirleach and Leas-Cathaoirleach, while the lone ranger on the former Council, Cllr. Kevin Boxer Moran (Independent), now has a partner in Cllr. Michael (Mick) O’Brien. Cllr. O’Brien quit Fianna Fail after their Selection Convention when he lost out to former Westmeath County Councillor Tom Allen, who lost his seat in the election. They sat in the benches next to the Sinn Féin Party Members, Cllr. Paul Hogan, Cllr. Sorca Clarke and Cllr. Una D’Arcy.

Reduced to 20 members from the former 23 seat Local Authority, there were sweeping changes across the Chamber by virtue of the fact that Sinn Féin and the Independents are now a formidable force on the Council.

The deal brokered saw Fianna Fáil’s Paddy Hill, a long time Councillor, who was first elected in 1974, proposed for the position of Cathaoirleach. The Finea man wasn’t getting it all his own way. As when he was proposed and seconded, Cllr. Paul Hogan, (SF), a former Mayor of Athlone, was proposed and seconded.

Following a vote, Cllr. Hill was elected Cathaoirleach, when he defeated Cllr. Hogan (SF) for the position.

Fianna Fáil party, Cllr. Paul Daly, said it gave him pleasure to propose Cllr. Hill for Cathaoirleach, while his party colleague, Cllr. John Shaw seconded.

Sinn Féin Cllr. Una Darcy proposed Cllr. Hogan for the position, while their party colleague, Cllr. Sorcha Clarke seconded.

Cllr. Hill defeated Cllr. Hogan 15 votes to three, with all Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and Independent Councillors supporting Cllr. Hill.

For the position of Leas-Cathaoirleach, Cllr. Frankie Keena saw off the challenge of Sinn Féin’s Cllr. Sorca Clarke.

Cllr. Daly proposed Cllr. Keena for Leas-Cathaoirleach, while Cllr. Hogan proposed Cllr. Clarke.