Walkout, shouts and legal threats in verbal stand-off

Making history: Mayor of Killarney, Cllr Niall Kelleher, chairing the first ever meeting of the council to be held in the boardroom of Rathmore Credit Union

A PROLONGED verbal spat over who had the right to second a motion disrupted a meeting of Killarney Municipal District Council for several minutes this Wednesday and led to one councillor storming out in protest and not returning for the remainder of the day.

The row erupted during a discussion on the provision of a major new cycle path and walkway, running from Ross Road to Flesk Bridge, which will effectively link the national park at Knockreer to the park at Muckross.

Following a comprehensive presentation on the matter by senior council engineer Paul Neary, during which several issues raised by residents and others were outlined and addressed, councillors were proceeding to the voting stage when a heated confrontation broke out.

Mayor Niall Kelleher, who was chairing the meeting, left the room for a brief period and vice chairman, Cllr John Joe Culloty, took charge while the discussion continued.

Cllr Donal Grady: left in protest

The decision to proceed with the development had earlier been proposed by Cllr Michael Gleeson. When Cllr  Culloty moved to second the motion – while he was in the chair – Cllr Donal Grady argued that, in fact, he had earlier seconded the motion and he had said he was doing so on three separate occasions.

Cllr Culloty insisted that he was following protocol based on what speaking order was in front of him and he asked Cllr Grady to “stop playing politics across the table”.

By the time Mayor Kelleher returned to the hotseat, a row between the two was in full flow.

The council’s meetings administrator, Brenda Conway, stressed a number of times that the correct protocol had been adhered to during the debate and that standing orders allowed the chairman to decide the speaking order based on who had raised their hands first.

But Cllr Grady again insisted that he has seconded the motion. He claimed he was being treated unfairly and he threatened to take the matter further and seek legal advice.

When he claimed that the chairman was behaving in an unfair manner and was trying to give Fianna Fail and Fine Gael control of the meeting, he was accused by Mayor Kelleher of “grandstanding”.

“At this meeting and at the last meeting you’ve been threatening to take this further and take that further but I have seen absolutely nothing going any further. I will not tolerate an accusation that I was being unfair,” Cllr Kelleher said.

Cllr John Joe Culloty: stressed protocol

But, packing his papers into an envelope and rising to his feet, a furious Cllr Grady insisted he was being badly treated and that he was leaving the meeting in protest.

“You don’t know the meaning of how a council is run correctly. You haven’t a clue in God’s earthily world what it’s like to run a meeting,” he charged at Mayor Kelleher.

“It’s rotten to the core. I want legal advice,” Cllr Grady added.

“I have somewhere else to be and the further away I can be from ye the better,” he added before storming out.

In his absence, the other seven councillors voted unanimously in favour of the cycle path and walkway proceeding and funding will now be sought for the development from a number of sources.

A little bit of local political history was made at today’s meeting in that it was held in the boardroom of Rathmore Credit Union, in keeping with the recent tradition of the sitting mayor hosting the last meeting of the year in his home town.

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