‘Arrogant’ Cullen accused of trying to drive out independents

ON the biggest weekend of his ministerial career to-date, Environment Minister Martin Cullen has been accused of deliberately setting out to get rid of independents in public life.

As Mr Cullen prepares to host his EU counterparts in Waterford, East Cork councillors have branded him the “Minister for Arrogance”.

Midleton Mayor Noel Collins said the minister’s stipulation that independent candidates must have the signatures of fifteen assenters in the local elections was a slur on the integrity of non-party candidates.

“Independents are seen as a threat to the establishment. What other reason can there be for a move like this?” the Mayor asked.

Now Midleton Town Council is calling on the minister to set aside the decision before nominations close on May 22.

Former Fianna Fáil member Ted Murphy, who successfully contested both the town and county council elections as an independent, said he was shocked by Mr Cullen’s decision.

“In my case,” said Mr Murphy, “I will need to have 30 people to go through that procedure and it is totally wrong that independent candidates should be treated in this disgraceful and discriminatory way.”

He said there are no such requirements on candidates standing for the established political parties, but, he claimed, the independents are on the rise and the message from Mr Cullen was to “get rid of them”.

“The intent of the minister is to eliminate independents who he sees as a very definite threat to the established parties,” he added.

Former Fine Gael man Stephen O’Shea, said there is no longer equality of treatment between independents and party members.

Independent councillor Lucy Connery added that Mr Cullen was attacking the democratic process and there was now a clear attempt to squeeze out the independents.

Criticism was not confined to the five independents, with both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael members denouncing the decision.

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