Cork City Council finally voted last night to fill a vacant council seat after new legal advice said it was the “option of least risk”.
Councillors voted 19 for, two against, with Fine Gael abstaining, to approve the co-option of Anti Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit (AAA/PBP) nominee Fiona Ryan to fill the casual vacancy arising out of the election of Mick Barry TD, after spending almost an hour in-committee considering legal advice in relation to the stalled process.
The move was challenged over a month ago by the Labour Party which questioned the validity of the AAA/PBP nomination of Mr Barry’s replacement, given that he was nominated to run for the council in 2014 by the AAA, which deregistered as a political party last year, after merging with PBP.
The co-option was deferred two weeks ago after the city’s law agent presented advice which said the council had no legal entitlement under section 19 of the Local Government Act 2001 or otherwise to fill the casual vacancy given the deregistered party issue.
The law agent said the “present lacuna” in that section of the act would best be addressed by way of amending primary legislation.
Councillors deferred the co-option to get their own legal advice, which was discussed behind closed doors last night.
The senior counsel advice was that council could seek guidance from the High Court by way of proceedings for a declaration in relation to section 19, but that this course of action could be expensive and would delay the filling of the vacancy.
The senior counsel said co-opting Ms Ryan was the option of least risk, and the course of action most consistent with the council’s obligations under section 19 of the act.
Her co-option was then proposed by AAA councillor Lil O’Donnell and seconded by Workers’ Party councillor Ted Tynan.
Fianna Fáil councillor John Sheehan said it was clear the legislation is flawed, and had resulted in the council operating in a vacuum.
His party colleague, Terry Shannon, said he would oppose the nomination given Ms Ryan’s views on abortion, and her outspoken calls for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.
Following the vote, Ms Ryan took her council seat to represent the Cork North Central Ward. Her co-option creates an all-female AAA/PBP grouping on council.
She vowed to continue campaigning for the repeal of the eighth. “We need to stop exporting women to avail of safe medical services,” she said.
She also promised to speak out to highlight issues facing young people, and young women in particular.
Speaking after the vote, Mr Barry, who watched proceedings from the public gallery, said justice was done and democracy had prevailed. “I would like to thank the thousands of people in the ward who signed the petitions and helped keep the pressure on,” he said.
“I am confident that Fiona Ryan will go no now to be an excellent councillor.”
The Labour Party also had an individual in the public gallery watching proceedings on its behalf.
Ms Ryan, 27, who works in the financial services sector, stood in the general election for AAA/PBP in Cork South Central, but plans to move to the northside.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved