Sligo councillors now ‘entering dangerous territory’ by failing to pass budget

Sligo county councillors will have a third and final chance next Friday evening to pass a budget for the coming year.

It’s that or the possibility of abolition and a commissioner being appointed by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to run the council.

Sligo councillors met for a second time yesterday evening to try to pass an annual budget.

But during a meeting lasting about 10 minutes they had voted 9 to 6 against adopting the budget.

Those who voted against were Fine Gael Councillors Thomas Walsh, Martin Connolly, Tom Fox, Sinead Maguire, Gerard Mullaney and Dara Mulvey, Independent Socialist Declan Bree and Sinn Fein’s Chris MacManus and Thomas Healy.

Those who voted in favour were Fianna Fail Councillors Tom MacSharry, Martin Baker, Rosaleen O Grady and Paul Taylor, with Independents Michael Clarke and Joe Queenan.

Independent Alliance Councillor Marie Casserly, Fianna Fail’s Donal Gilroy and People Before Profit Councillor Gino O Boyle were absent.

After the vote, council chief executive Ciaran Hayes told councillors their decision was not in accordance with their statutory obligations.

He added that his advice to them was to further adjourn, and that the last date they had for agreeing a budget was Sunday, December 8th, which effectively meant Friday was the last day.

He said if they did not adopt a budget, he was obliged to inform the department and the minister, and the minister’s options included abolition of the council and the appointment of a commissioner.

Councillors then adjourned to Friday next, December 6th, at 5pm.

Normally, the councillors who form a majority working group on the council — and who also share out various positions — pass a budget.

But on this occasion, the Independent Socialist, Sinn Fein and People Before Profit councillors who are part of a majority — having come to an agreement after the last local elections — are refusing support their Fianna Fail colleagues by approving the budget.

That agreement, or Pact, sidelined Fine Gael, ensuring it is not in a majority group on the council, despite the party returning the most seats — six — after the local elections.

Independent Socialist, Sinn Fein and People Before Profit councillors are unlikely to change their mind and support the budget.

And in that case, the focus will be on what the Fine Gael councillors eventually decide to do.
Fianna Fail’s Paul Taylor, who’s in favour of the budget, says councillors are now entering dangerous territory.