‘If Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness could do a deal, there’s no reason why the Healy-Raes and Brendan Cronin couldn’t’

The new Mayor of Kerry Cllr Breandán Fitzgerald

The voting pact that dictated the key positions on Killarney Municipal District Council over the past five years is teetering on the brink of collapse as a result of the fall-out from a separate deal struck to decide who would be the new Mayor of Kerry, KillarneyToday.com can reveal.

A voting arrangement had been in place in Killarney that controlled who held the chains of office but it is now virtually certain that the previous deal will be scrapped when the new council meets next Friday.

Although it won’t be confirmed until the meeting actually takes place, KillarneyToday.com understands that the new arrangement will see Independents Brendan Cronin, John O’Donoghue, Maura Healy-Rae, Martin Grady and Niall O’Callaghan all spending a 12-month term as mayor with Marie Moloney (Labour) and Niall Kelleher (Fianna Fail) losing out.

Defeated by one vote: Cllr Brendan Cronin

The previous arrangement involved Cllrs Cronin, Kelleher, Moloney and Michael Gleeson of the Kerry Independent Alliance and it held strong when the latter was replaced on the council by his nephew Cllr John O’Donoghue.

The end result of that pact was that Cllrs Maura Healy-Rae, Niall O’Callaghan and Donal Grady – succeeded on the local authority by his son Martin – did not have the opportunity to become mayor or deputy mayor between 2019 and this year.

But the political landscape changed dramatically on Thursday last after Cllrs Kelleher and Moloney voted in favour of Fianna Fail’s Cllr Breandán Fitzgerald being elected Mayor of Kerry in a head-to-head contest which saw him defeat Independent Brendan Cronin by a single vote, 17-16.

Labour’s Terry O’Brien and Marie Moloney: Votes crucial

In an move that caused many eyebrows to be raised, given several political differences between Cllr Cronin and the Healy-Raes in the past, it was Cllr Johnny Healy-Rae that proposed Brendan Cronin for the position of mayor and he was seconded by Cllr John O’Donoghue.

“We battled over the years on several things but we represent the same kind of people,” Cllr Healy-Rae said.

“If Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness could do a deal, if Fianna Fail and Fine Gael could do a deal and form a government then there’s no reason why the Healy-Raes and Brendan Cronin couldn’t do a deal”.

Cllr Healy-Rae added: “I’ve battled with Cllr Cronin more than anybody else over the years. What he says he means. You’ll get it between the eyes whether you like it or not”.

He also admitted that his family had spoken to several other councillors with a view to forming a power deal.

“Anyone that knows the Healy-Raes will know that the one thing we will do is talk to everyone, ”he said.

Cllr Cronin was seconded by Cllr John O’Donoghue but he was defeated by a single vote with Fianna Fail (nine seats), Fine Gael (six) and Labour (two) all voting in favour of Cllr Breandán Fitzgerald (FF).

That arrangement will see three Fianna Fail mayors and two from Fine Gael over the five-year term of the county council while Labour will hold the position of deputy mayor for a year.

Cllr Johnny Healy-Rae: Proposed Brendan Cronin for mayor

Although it couldn’t proceed without the support of the two Labour councillors, it is understood the alternative deal proposed between the 11 Independent candidates, four Sinn Fein and John O’Donoghue of the Kerry Independent Alliance would have seen Cllr Brendan Cronin (Ind), Cllr Johnny Healy-Rae (Ind), Cllr Marie Moloney (Lab), Cllr Deirdre Ferris (SF) and Cllr Niall O’Callaghan (Ind) all being mayor for a year.

Speaking in the immediate aftermath of his defeat at the county AGM, Cllr Brendan Cronin described certain comments made during the week about Independents lacking stability when making decisions made as degrading.

“In the Killarney Municipal District 72 per cent of those that voted gave their first preference to Independents and the parties picked up the rest.

“There were remarks about the instability of Independents which I thought was a bit demeaning, to say the least.

“I’ve given 25 years here and not once have I failed to deliver a budget – not once – and that’s how stable I am,” he said.

Cllr Maura Healy-Rae said she believed that given his years of service and experience, Cllr Brendan Cronin would have been an excellent ambassador for the county.

Cllr Maura Healy-Rae: Baffled by Labour decision

And strongly hinting at what is likely to happen at the first meeting of the newly elected Killarney MD next Friday, she remarked: “There’s always another day and, perhaps, that day might come quicker than a lot of the people inside in the room might think”.

Cllr Healy-Rae confirmed that the Healy-Raes attempted to form an alliance with Sinn Fein and the Independent councillors and asked the two Labour representatives to join in and, she said, their refusal to do so was “disappointing and almost baffling”.

“If successful, that deal would have seen three Killarney municipal councillors in the chain and the office of the county and that in itself can’t be underestimated. It would have been a huge achievement. It would have been hugely beneficial to Killarney and to the county.

“It is an opportunity missed and it might never come up again. That, to me, is baffling and I will never understand it,” Cllr Healy-Rae said.

Cllr Norma Moriarty (FF) told the meeting that there were two alternative proposals put forward in an attempt to take control of the control of the council and the Healy-Raes were involved in both of them.

“In one of them they were certainly looking after all of the Independents and Sinn Fein but in the other they were excluding Labour, they were excluding Fine Gael and they were excluding the Independents,” she said.

Cllr Healy-Rae replied: “We spoke to everyone, like yourself and just so we’re clear – it was you that rang us, we didn’t ring you”.

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