Fianna Fáil councillors in Kerry criticise Government


FIANNA FÁIL councillors in Kerry have jointly decided to criticise Government policy with which they say they fundamentally disagree, and to call for action on other issues in what amounts to a grassroots revolt.

In the first of what is expected to be a series of public statements, the Kerry councillors yesterday called on the Government to amend the pension levy scheme.

They confirmed they had done this on their own initiative and without consultation with party councillors outside Kerry.

A joint statement after a special meeting of the 11 county councillors in Tralee, led by Paul O’Donoghue, brother of Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue, said that in its present format, “the pension levy scheme is neither fair nor equitable”. It added: “We call on the Government to engage again with the social partners with a view to devising a formula which is fair to all concerned.”

The councillors also called on the Government for a cap on the salaries of senior bank executives at €300,000 per annum.

“Under no circumstances should bonuses or severance payments be made to bankers or officials until a full inquiry, including a Garda inquiry, has taken place in relation to the current financial difficulties,” the statement ended.

Councillors privately confirmed this – amounting to a grassroots revolt – was their own initiative and they would issue a number of statements in the coming weeks.

Anger has been brewing among many Fianna Fáil councillors in Kerry with some time. The insistence by party headquarters that councillors, along with all candidates for local elections, attend for interview with party officials and activists in order to be selected, provoked fury among some.

The interview process replaces the selection by local convention and has led to allegations by senior councillors in Kerry of the party losing touch with the grassroots.

Some councillors refused initially to attend the new interview process until reassured the interview by party activists from outside the county would be a mere formality for sitting councillors and would constitute a canvassing of their opinions on current issues.

However no candidate – sitting or would-be councillor – has been officially selected by Fianna Fáil and will not be named until the party ardfheis in a fortnight.

As well as anger at the proposal to take medical cards from the over-70s, some have privately accused the Government and party bosses of “living in a bubble”.

They have also criticised what they say is a growing trend by Ministers and junior Ministers not to receive delegations led by councillors.