Cork’s City Council agreed last night to change its rules on the replacement of certain councillors following a resignation, election, sickness, or death.
However, the changes are too late to take effect for next week’s local elections and will only be effective for candidates running in the 2024 local elections.
Under the rules governing the way the council operates, political parties nominate a replacement if one of their members steps down, is elected to the Dáil or European Parliament, or dies.
When an Independent councillor resigns or dies, however, the seat goes to the highest polling unelected candidate from the last election.
The rule sparked a row in 2011 following the death of Independent councillor Dave McCarthy, a former Fianna Fáil councillor.
It led to former Fine Gael councillor Joe O’Callaghan, who lost his seat at the previous local election, being co-opted onto the council.
This is in spite of Mr McCarthy’s own efforts to change the co-option rule, which he said discriminates against Independent candidates.
Mr McCarthy argued before his death that an Independent seat should remain Independent.
The issue arose again in 2016 following the election to the Dáil of former Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit councillor Mick Barry.
Labour challenged the co-option of Fiona Ryan to fill the casual vacancy and questioned the validity of AAA/ PBP’s nomination of Ms Ryan, given that Mr Barry was nominated to run for the council in 2014 by AAA, which deregistered as a political party last year after merging with PBP.
Ms Ryan was co-opted onto the council.
Three Independent councillors, Thomas Maloney, lord mayor Mick Finn, and Kieran McCarthy, tabled a motion to change the rule because of the increase in groupings involved in the rotation of committee chairs and outside committees.
Once the outcome of next week's election is known, the first meeting of the new council, for the enlarged #Cork city, is on June 7.
The first ordinary meeting of the new council is June 10.— Eoin English (@EoinBearla) May 13, 2019
They said the change would afford non-party members the same rights as the larger parties to nominate their replacements in such circumstances.
Following discussion by party whips, the motion came before full council last night for approval.
Fianna Fáil councillor John Sheehan said that the motion should be supported to address what he described as a democratic deficit.
Sinn Féin councillor Thomas Gould said when people vote Independent, the seat should remain Independent.
Fine Gael councillor Des Cahill suggested an amendment that would require Independent candidates to nominate their alternatives before election.
It was pointed out that it was too late for that amendment to take effect for this month’s elections but would be in effect for the 2024 elections. His amendment was agreed.
The decision will see the council’s standing orders changed in advance of the next local election.