Fianna Fáil help ensure Ferris survives as mayor

FIANNA FÁIL yesterday came to the rescue of Kerry Sinn Féin mayor Toiréasa Ferris by ensuring a Fine Gael no confidence motion in her was defeated at Kerry County Council’s meeting.

Embattled Ms Ferris last year won the mayoralty through a "technical arrangement" involving FF, SF and the two Independent Healy-Rae brothers a deal that ensured her survival as mayor yesterday.

The motion arose from Ms Ferris's controversial Late Late Show appearance during which she refused to condemn the shooting dead of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe in Adare in 1996. The motion was defeated, 12-8, with five abstentions.

One FF councillor, Ned O'Sullivan of Listowel, who had earlier spoken about "not being a slave" to one's party on certain matters, broke rank by abstaining. He said his family and the McCabes, from nearby Ballylongford, were personal friends.

Others to abstain were Independents Brendan Cronin and Michael Gleeson, and Labour councillors Pat Leahy and Terry O'Brien.

What should have been a major political victory for Fine Gael over both Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil in Kerry failed to come off.

FF whip Paul O'Donoghue, a brother of Tourism Minister John O'Donoghue, accused FG of hypocrisy, saying that FG had been on the point of doing a deal with SF for the mayoralty, following the last local elections.

Mr O'Donoghue said the motion put FF in an extremely difficult position, but the FF view was "diametrically opposite" to SF on the McCabe issue.

Though again refusing to condemn the killing, Ms Ferris repeated her "immense sympathy" for the McCabe family.

She also claimed FG councillor Johnny 'Porridge' O'Connor, who had led calls for the no confidence motion, had been engaged in a publicity stunt.

The issue was hotly debated for just over an hour at the council meeting but was calmly handled throughout by Ms Ferris.

Before attacking her stance on the McCabe issue, councillors from all sides praised her for doing her job as mayor efficiently and fairly. Her father, SF TD Martin Ferris, her mother, Marie, and a number of SF supporters were in the public gallery.

Four different votes were taken, starting with an emergency FG motion "unreservedly condemning the brutal murder" of Det Garda McCabe, which was also supported by FF, Labour and Independents.

This motion was passed, 23-2, with the two SF councillors, Ms Ferris and Robert Beasley, voting against.

It included an addendum by South Kerry Independent Alliance councillor Michael Gleeson that bank robberies for political party fund raising purposes be also condemned.

Ms Ferris said she could not support the addendum "because it implies representatives of certain parties have been involved in robberies".

FF moved a similar motion and went a step further by censuring SF and Ms Ferris. The FF motion was also passed 23-2.

A motion by Mr Beasley extending sympathy to the families of all those killed during the Troubles was passed unanimously.

The no confidence motion was the last to be taken, with the proposer, FG councillor Bobby O'Connell, saying they had no option but to move it as Ms Ferris had again refused an opportunity to condemn the killing.

Michael Healy-Rae introduced a note of hilarity with a reference to Mr O'Connor's nickname, stating: "Fine Gael are dancing to the tune of a man who likes to be called after a breakfast cereal."

He said Mr O'Connor had gone off on a solo run that some other FG councillors knew nothing about and they then had to support him.

Mr Beasley said the first man to approach Sinn Féin about doing a deal after the local elections was Mr O'Connor.

"If it was anyone else they (FG) sent, we would be in a different situation here today, but they sent a boy on a man's job," Mr Beasley said, to laughter in the chamber.

Ms Ferris said if FG wanted to remove her from the mayoralty, they were not going about it in the correct way.

She said the way to proceed, under the Local Government Act, would be to get a third of councillors to put down a motion for a meeting to be held within three weeks. A majority of 75% would then be needed to remove her.

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