Deputies absent as ‘promises’ are broken

FINE Gael deputies Pat Breen and Joe Carey were nowhere to be seen at yesterday’s emergency meeting of Clare County Council where councillors and officials discussed ways to cut the €243,000 hole which has emerged in the council’s budget.
The Fine Gael deputies were accused of being sold a pup by the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan (FG) – a pup that could result in drastic cuts to services in Clare over the next three months.
Deputies Breen and Carey assured members of Clare County Council at a meeting earlier this year that the €243,000 deducted from the council’s budget, because of the low payment rates of the household tax, would be refunded if the rate in Clare reached 65 per cent.
With the collection rate in Clare currently standing at 68 per cent, the Department of the Environment issued a circular last week stating that the money would not be refunded.
Deputies Breen and Carey, Senators Tony Mulcahy (FG) and Martin Conway (FG) as well as Labour Deputy Michael McNamara all sent their apologies to the meeting, with only Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley in attendance.
“When these promises were made, I rang the Department of the Environment the very next day and they hadn’t heard about it. It was just a yarn passed down to Deputy Breen and Deputy Carey to fool the people of Clare,” said Cllr James Breen (IND).
“I challenged Deputy Carey and Deputy Breen to clarify the position. I asked the [County Manager] Tom Coughlan to clarify with the Department if this arrangement was ever made. I don’t believe that it was.”
Cllr Patricia McCarthy (Ind) accused the Minister for the Environment of using the issue as a way of cutting budgets by the back door.
“We have a problem. It is clear that whatever promises were made, there was no foundation for it. I am finding it extremely difficult not to believe that the Department and the Department’s head [Phil Hogan] haven’t pulled a fast one in relation to this,” she said.
The council adopted a proposal to allow the Fine Gael deputies another week to secure a meeting with Minister Hogan before immediate cuts to services were introduced.
A motion put forward by the Fine Gael councillors to ask for the full refund from the Department of the Environment should Clare reach a 75 per cent sign-up rate for the household charge was defeated by nine votes to 13.


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