A heated exchange took place at County Hall last week between Sinn Féin’s Cllr Caroline Dwane and Fine Gael mayor of Portlaoise, Cllr Willie Aird, over the delay in filling a vacant seat on Portlaoise Town Council with new Sinn Féin councillor Claire Spollen.
Cllr Spollen’s nomination was proposed by her party colleague and seconded by independent Cllr Rotimi Adebari. Welcoming Cllr Spollen onto the town council, Cllr Dwane said she was very disappointed Cllr Spollen had not been co-opted onto the council when she was first proposed six weeks ago.
“But you didn’t have a seconder,” interjected Cllr Aird.
“I did have a seconder,” replied Cllr Dwane, referring to the fact that Fianna Fáil’s Cllr Jerry Lodge initially gave a commitment to second her, but failed to do so at the December meeting.
Cllr Aird again said that there had been no seconder, but Cllr Dwane was adamant.
“Six weeks ago I was not allowed to speak, I now have five minutes to speak and I will do so without interruption,” she said.
“I am chairing this meeting,” said Cllr Aird. “You’re entitled to say a few words but you will not tell an untruth by saying you had a seconder.”
“There was a legal requirement on the town council to co-opt six weeks ago, this reflects very poorly on this council,” said Cllr Dwane. “I’ve heard a lot about how important it is to support women in politics, but there was no support six weeks ago.”
“This is supposed to be a good day for the town council and for Sinn Féin, but if you continue to say you had a seconder I’ll adjourn this meeting,” threatened Cllr Aird.
“We had a seconder,” reiterated Cllr Dwane. “You are not going to censor me.”
Cllr Dwane finished by welcoming Cllr Spollen, but again said that her acceptance onto the council should have taken place six weeks previously.
Thanking her friend and colleague, Cllr Spollen said she would represent the people of the community to the best of her abilities. However, she echoed Cllr Dwane’s criticism of the delay.
“I was very disappointed six weeks ago not to be co-opted onto this town council, this has never happened anywhere else in the State,” she said.