Fine Gael members quarrel over internal VEC voting process

A FURTHER row has broken out over a Cork County VEC selection – this time, internally, within the ranks of Fine Gael.

It comes as yet another blow to the party which just a few weeks ago was forced into an embarrassing climbdown when Fine Gael endeavoured to unseat a Church of Ireland representative on the board.

The latest row resulted in a complaint being made by a Fine Gael town councillor to the party’s head office following a vote to nominate a chairman of the Cork County VEC.

As Fine Gael are the majority party on the VEC their nomination traditionally secures the office of chairperson.

Cllr Humphrey Deegan, who is a town councillor in Clonakilty, and east Cork-based county councillor Gerry Kelly both contested the FG nomination – which school principal Mr Kelly won.

He was subsequently elected as chairman of the VEC.

However, Mr Deegan claimed normal practice ensured only Fine Gael VEC members, either town councillors or county councillors, were the only ones who can vote on such nominations.

In this case, though, he claimed a vote was given to a trade union representative on the VEC who was not a serving politician.

“I have made a complaint to the party’s general secretary and national executive asking them to clarify who is entitled to vote on these occasions. I have also taken legal advice. That is not a route I wish to go down but if I have to I will,” Mr Deegan said.

A spokesman at Fine Gael headquarters yesterday said the party would be making no comment on the issue.

However, Cllr Noel O’Connor, outgoing VEC chairman who presided over the party nomination vote, said it was carried out legitimately.

He said party headquarters had been consulted with before the vote and the local FG group had been told the union representative on the VEC was entitled to take part in the vote as he was a party member.

Mr O’Connor said he was happy the democratic process was adhered to and it was disappointing Mr Deegan chose to see it differently.

Earlier this month another controversy broke out when Fine Gael ousted Church of Ireland representative Canon George Salter from the Cork County VEC board.

Fine Gael had backed former mayor of Co Cork Tom Sheahan for a position which had traditionally been held by the church body.

His defeat of Canon George Salter led Fianna Fáil to accuse FG of “political cronyism”.

The furore also prompted Minister for Education Mary Coughlan to say she was examining legislation to protect community and church nominated seats on VECs from political takeovers.

The uproar eventually led to Tom Sheahan resigning the seat and Canon Salter being reinstalled on the board.


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