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23/07/2021

Roads row and Fine Gael's Laois delivery causes party split

Roads row and Fine Gael delivery causes party split

Fine Gael's Cllr Conor Bergin and Cllr John King hit political pothole

A Fine Gael councillor was left ‘perplexed’ and hit back at what he called ‘personal' remarks aimed at him during a row which saw him being told to get his party to deliver more money to Laois if he wants his 'wish list' of roads fixed.

During the skirmish, Cllr Conor Bergin came under scrutiny from his party colleague Cllr John King while Cllr James Kelly demanded that he get Fine Gael to cough up to fix potholes and surface roads. 

The flare-up took place at the Borris-in-Ossory Mountmellick Municipal District meeting where Cllr Bergin tabled three consecutive motions calling for work on roads.

While other councillors supported him on the need for the specific issues to be addressed, he was challenged.

Cllr Kellly, Independent, was first to take him to task over how it could be delivered He said most of Cllr Bergin’s motions have been about road improvements.

“Now, there's only so much in the pie that we can go for, in our area, a much bigger area than the other two municipal areas,” he said.

Cllr Kelly said told his counterpart to get his party, Fine Gael, to deliver for Laois.

“I think you need to maybe get onto your party. Try and get us more funding, bring it back down here and we'll get more of your roads done as well as well for the rest of our councillors roads as well,” he said.

Cllr Bergin responded that he makes no apology for lobbying to have roads upgraded in the Borris-in-Ossory Mountmellick, which he added covers 43% of the roads network in Co Laois. He said good roads are needed regardless of how a car is powered.

“I do agree with Cllr Kelly we do need more funding but like everything else, it comes back to budget time to discuss it in the chamber. People pay property taxes and pay roads taxes They deserve decent roads,” he said.

Cllr Bergin believes all councillors should work together. 

“I would always welcome more money from the government. But I think we have to work with all councillors. It’s most important that members of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and technical group need to work together. Unfortunately, we don't always pull in the one direction but when we do that's when we get more done,” he said.

He added that there has to be a fair balance in how money is spent in the three municipal districts.

He concluded saying the Minister for Transport is in the Green Party and ‘not one of mine’.

But this irked Cllr Kelly who said: “You have been in power a long time now. I'm not having to go at you but you just have to be realistic as well. Where is the funding going to come from for all the wish list?”

While Cllr Bergin retorted: “We all have a wish list”.

But Cllr Kelly hit back: “You shouldn't be giving people false hope on these roads”.

He added there may be no chance of delivering some of the issues raised in motions for years because of funding shortages.

After the two exchanged barbs about 'promises', Cllr Bergin’s Fine Gael party colleague intervened.

“We all have the same interests in roads as Cllr Bergin. We have to working as a unit,” said Cllr King.

He acknowledged that Fine Gael is in power and said it is up to councillors to contact Laois TDs to attract more funding. 

However, Cllr King echoed Cllr Kelly’s initial remarks about Cllr Bergin when he said: “Cllr Bergin has a tendency to highlight roads in a certain way.”

This drew a swift rebuke from the young Fine Gael man.

“I'm a bit perplexed. We are all entitled to raise roads in our area. We are all very good at it including yourself (Cllr King) and Cllr Kelly as well. If we all wish lists it would be a mile long.  Yours (Cllr King) and Cllr Kellys would be as long as mine and that's the job that we were elected to do.

“I make no apology for raising issues about roads in my area and never will. The people who I go out and canvas and voted for me asked me to raise roads and I will keep raising them,” he said.

Cllr Bergin felt he was coming under direct personal attack. He said there was also two standards when it comes to people working together.

Cllr Bergin: “It seems like it's one rule for some and one for another. I am personally not happy about things said but I'm going to keep raising roads”.

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