FF and FG to sign pact to control councils

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are on the verge of signing a co-operation pact to give the parties joint control of three major local authorities — Cork Co Council, Kerry Co Council and the new Limerick City and County Council.

It is expected a deal will be signed off in Cork today, 24 hours ahead of the new council’s first meeting in County Hall. And in Kerry, it is believed the parties were “very close” to an agreement as the new council assembles, also tomorrow, in Tralee.

In Limerick, the office of the new mayor will not carry any of the trappings of the past. But the parties, with 25 of the 40 seats between them, will lead to Fianna Fáil chairing the council for three years and Fine Gael, two years.

They have also agreed the mayor of the city and the municipal districts which embraces three of the six city and county electoral areas, will be divided in favour of Fine Gael who will hold the office for three of the five years. The historic new city and county council will be inaugurated tomorrow when the leadership deals will be approved.

Despite massive gains in all three local authorities, neither Sinn Féin nor Independent groupings are likely to chair any district bodies or sub-committees.

Fianna Fáil had returned the largest number of councillors in Cork county, with 17, one ahead of Fine Gael. Together they would have a clear majority in the new 55-seater council.

Fianna Fáil initially held tentative coalition talks with Sinn Féin — which holds 10 seats — but they petered out as Sinn Féin reportedly sought to rotate the mayoralty between all parties.

Long-serving Cllr Alan Coleman (FF) is expected, under the new deal, to assume the role of mayor of County Cork for the first year of the five-year-council. Fine Gael is expected to hold office for two years.

A number of other positions will also be carved up by the two parties at tomorrow’s meeting.

These include five appointments to the South-Western Regional Assembly, nine to the HSE (South) Regional Forum, eight on the County Cork Education and Training Board and one on LAMA (Local Authority Members Association).

In Kerry, meanwhile, senior Fianna Fáil councillor John Brassil confirmed both main parties were on the brink of clinching an agreement but asserted nothing had yet been signed.

The parties have been negotiating after they won nine seats each which would give them a tidy 18-15 majority on the 33-member council. Fine Gael, Labour and Independents controlled the previous 27-member council. But, with both Fine Gael and Labour losing seats and Sinn Féin increasing its representation, the possibility of a new alignment opened up.

Cllr Brassil declined to comment on speculation he will be elected the first chairman of the new council when it meets tomorrow.

The likely deal will involve different members of the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael parties taking the chair in turn as well as a mayoralty in Tralee and three new municipal districts in Tralee, Killarney and Listowel.

The parties will also take control of the chair and membership of several council sub-committees.

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