Fianna Fáil regains control of Cork as deal struck

Fianna Fáil have regained control of Cork County Council for the first time since 1991 after cobbling together a loose coalition with seven of the 10 Independents and two Labour councillors.

However, the party does not have an overall majority, which could prove difficult for adopting future budgets.

It failed to secure the 28 votes required for an overall majority in the expanded 55-seat council.

After making approaches to all other parties, Fianna Fáil managed to form a pact with some Independents, which led to Cllr Alan Coleman being elected as Mayor of County Cork yesterday.

After Sinn Féin’s nominee for the position was eliminated on the first ballot, Mr Coleman beat off the challenge of Fine Gael’s Deirdre Forde to win the chain of office on a vote of 26-17.

Sinn Féin abstained on the second vote, while Independent Noel Collins voted for Ms Forde. Independent councillors Marcia D’Alton and Mary Linehan-Foley also abstained, while Labour’s two councillors voted for Mr Coleman.

Independent Timmy Collins, a fuel trader from Meelin, was elected as deputy mayor, easily beating off a challenge from Sinn Féin’s Ger Keohane and Fine Gael’s Susan McCarthy.

In his acceptance speech, Mr Coleman, a farmer from Belgooly, said Fianna Fáil had been obliged to talk to all parties to seek a pact.

He said the days of Civil War politics were over in relation to Fine Gael and added: “The day of not talking to the ‘Shinners’ is finally over.”

He said Independents were “a new force in politics,” adding that it was unprecedented that 31 of the councillors were newly- elected.

The new mayor said that among his aims in office was to help struggling small businesses by reducing commercial rates and reducing the Local Property Tax charges, which were a huge burden on some families.

Kevin Murphy, on behalf of Fine Gael, congratulated Mr Coleman on his election but warned he faced a “daunting task” in trying to pass a budget and county development plan for next year.

Meanwhile, in Limerick, Fianna Fáil’s Kevin Sheahan was yesterday voted the first chairman of the new 40-member Limerick City and County Council, through an alliance with Fine Gael.

The two parties hold 25 seats on the council. Earlier this week, they struck a five- year partnership deal which will see Fianna Fáil take the chair three times and Fine Gael twice.

Mr Sheahan received 27 votes, Maurice Quinlivan of Sinn Féin 10, and Paul Keller of the Anti Austerity Alliance received three.

Two of the three Independents, Brigid Teefy and Emmet O’Brien, supported Mr Sheahan.

Joe Crowley of Fianna Fáil was elected vice-chairman.

Mr Sheahan was one of four FF councillors who temporarily left the party last week in a row over internal leadership of the group.

In an address to yesterday’s first meeting of the council, Michael Collins of Fianna Fáil said many had claimed a coalition between his party and Fine Gael could not be achieved. “It was done for the betterment of the people of the city and county of Limerick,” he said.

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