THE fallout from a controversial VEC election continued yesterday as Fianna Fáil claimed Sinn Féin had shown more consideration to the Church of Ireland than Fine Gael.
The Fianna Fáil leader on Cork County Council, Cllr Alan Coleman, said FG’s backing of a former councillor for the position on the local board of the VEC, traditionally held by a Church of Ireland nominee, was “the most disgraceful episode” he had witnessed in the council chamber.
All but one member of Fine Gael backed former councillor Tom Sheahan for the post, resulting in him defeating Church of Ireland nominee Canon George Salter.
Tom Sheahan, an auctioneer in Buttevant, later decided that he wouldn’t take up the seat, saying he didn’t want to cause any upset or disharmony on the VEC board.
“Tom Sheahan has shown great integrity by making that decision and that puts him in a good light, but it puts Fine Gael in a very bad light. What they did was quite astonishing and very embarrassing for the party.
“Fine Gael have shown dangerous tendencies with the power they have on the county council,” Mr Coleman said.
He said he wasn’t surprised the sole Sinn Féin representative on the council, Cllr Sandra McLellan, had voted for Canon Salter to retain the position he had held for many years.
“That’s consistent with Sinn Féin policies in the North where they have extended the hand of friendship to other communities and it only makes sense that they adopt a inclusive position here,” Mr Coleman said. “Everybody else but Fine Gael could see it was the right thing to do to retain the model concept of having a representatives from the Catholic Church and Church of Ireland on the VEC board.”
Ms McLellan said she voted for Canon Salter as she had been informed that he was a good, hardworking man whose input would be valuable to the VEC.
“In my capacity as former mayor of Youghal I have worked with Church of Ireland people and have received nothing but courteousness and respectfulness from them,” she said.
Ms McLellan added that she didn’t want to see political cronyism associated with the VEC and that was another reason she had not voted for Mr Sheahan.
Cllr Mary Hegarty was the only Fine Gael member to vote for Canon Salter.
“The honourable thing has been done by Tom Sheahan. Fianna Fáil are playing political football and it’s time to put this saga to bed,” Ms Hegarty said.
FG leader on the council, Cllr Michael Hegarty, said it was “rich in the extreme” that Fianna Fáil should be talking about political cronyism “when the vast majority of state boards and quangos were filled with its appointees”.
“As far as we are concerned, this issue has been resolved and the Church of Ireland is willing to appoint its own nominee,” he said.
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