Chairman accused of misrepresenting council position on water charges

The Fianna Fáil chairman of Limerick City and County Council was yesterday accused of misrepresenting the council’s position on water charges.

Kevin Sheahan issued a statement through his council office, flagging his appearance and support for last Saturday’s protest in Limerick.

The Fine Gael leader on the council, John Sheahan, said the statement gave an impression the chairman’s views represented the official position of the council.

He demanded to know if council chief executive Conn Murray was made aware the chairman’s statement was sent out as a formal council document.

During exchanges at a special meeting of the council to discuss water charges, the Fine Gael council leader accused the Fianna Fáil chairman of misleading the public.

John Sheahan (FG) said: “The press statement you issued in relation to the protest march had your picture attached in full garb with your chain of office on.”

Kevin Sheahan (FF) said that in all interviews he conducted at the march, he made his position clear.

“I told all the media interviews I did that I was not at the march on behalf of Fianna Fáil, that I was not at the march on behalf of this council. I made it clear that I marched on behalf of the people who elected me.

“I don’t believe that a statement going out from the Cathaoirleach’s office influenced the media people. When I was elected chairman, I did not sign off on the people who elected me.”

When Fine Gael pressed Mr Murray to say if he was aware of the chairman’s statement, council secretary Eugene Griffin intervened to say it was not the chief executive’s job to speak or answer for any councillor.

During the meeting, Fianna Fáil accused Sinn Féin of inconsistency in their calls for the abolition of water charges.

The Fianna Fáil leader on the council, Michael Collins, said Sinn Féin’s policy would result in a two-tier system — one for rural residents and another for urban dwellers.

Cllr Maurice Quinlivan (SF) said councillors have the choice of standing with their people or their parties.

“I have personally made a decision not to pay water charges. The time for posturing is over. Fianna Fáil must call on its leadership to change it’s policy,” he said.

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