Heated row at MKMD over absences from Ryan visit
A heated row broke out between the mayor of Mullingar, Cllr Hazel Smyth, and Fianna Fail councillor Ken Glynn at the Municipal District meeting last week over a recent visit to Westmeath by Minister Eamon Ryan.
Challenged over not attending the minister’s visit, Cllr Glynn complained that the first he knew of the visit was an email to say the minister was arriving on Friday in Athlone, which was for him a working day.
“Sorry, but most of us here work, as you know yourself, and it’s very difficult to get off for meetings,” he said.
Cllr Smyth countered that she believed it was councillors’ duty as elected representatives to attend meetings with ministers if they get that opportunity: “That should take precedence,” she said, going on to tell Cllr Glynn it was his responsibility to attend.
Her remarks came after a debate on public transport in which services were criticised by Labour’s Cllr Denis Leonard, Cllr Glynn and Fine Gael councillor Emily Wallace, and the mayor noted that none of the three attended the meeting with the minister.
Furious, Cllr Glynn accused the mayor of calling his character into question: “Mayor, I want you to withdraw those remarks: that is an absolute scandal,” he said.
Cllr Smyth denied that was the case, but Cllr Glynn insisted it was: “You know how it operates on Westmeath County Council, how meetings are called. A meeting was called without any organisation: you were there or you were not there,” he said, stating that the mayor had hit “a new low”.
Cllr Smyth was not accepting that: “I find that very disrespectful to speak in that way because that’s not what I’m saying. I said there was a meeting called and there was an opportunity for every elected representative to attend; whether they decided to or not was their decision, and that’s all I’m saying: I’m not saying anything about anybody’s character.”
Cllr Glynn accused the mayor of “throwing it back at [them]” about not attending: “[Minister Ryan] came and lectured about the town centre traffic and told us that if we don’t do this and we don’t do that, the funding will go elsewhere. That’s not helpful in my book,” he stated.
Cllr Glynn said that in his comments on public transport services in Mullingar, he wasn’t having a go at the minister but he was unhappy that services are poor locally.
“And if it was a Fianna Fáil minister or a Fine Gael minister, I have never been shy about standing up for what I believe in and for representing the people,” he said.
Cllr Denis Leonard joined the debate and made no bones about explaining to the mayor his feelings towards the minister: “I have been for 20 years raising Killucan station, just to give you one example… I’ve written to six different ministers of transport; four different CEOs of Irish Rail and I can produce a folder of letters… for anybody who wants to see. And the one thing I can say is, they have all had the courtesy to write back to me and let me know where things are.
“A few years ago, you facilitated a meeting with Minister Ryan. Since then, I’ve written at least three letters to him, none of which he has chosen to respond to, and that’s why I was not at that meeting.”
Cllr Leonard said Westmeath “needs to get serious” in asking why it has not been allocated the €5m it would cost to reopen Killucan Station – half of which could be obtained from the EU – and why it can’t have bus services running through its major rural towns.