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Outgoing Green Party leader Eamon Ryan Alamy Stock Photo
Green policies

'Petty and retrograde': Cork County councillors react to vote against wishing Eamon Ryan well

Such motions almost never go to a vote and are accepted without objection.

A CORK COUNTY Council motion to wish Transport and Environment Minister Eamon Ryan well following his stepping down as Green Party leader has been defeated by 22 votes to 12, which some members have described as a worrying development in the tenor of political disagreements on the Council. 

The motion to wish Ryan well was proposed at the end of a Council meeting earlier today by Fianna Fáil councillor Gillian Coughlan, many of whose party colleagues voted it down along with many Fine Gael members and independents. 

Such motions almost never go to a vote and are accepted without objection, but Fine Gael’s Michael Hegarty called for the councillors who remained in the hall to have their say on the matter. Not all of the 55 members of the Council were in the room for the vote.

“It’s unheard of that an issuing of congratulations at Cork County Council would be challenged, not to mind a vote being called on it,” said Social Democrat councillor Liam Quaide, who told The Journal it “reflects badly” on the Council, making the body look “petty and retrograde”.

Gillian Coughlan told The Journal that her intention was to offer Ryan the best wishes of the Council because as minister he had dealt with Cork County Council directly. 

“I just felt that it was just courtesy that we would wish him well,” she said.

“Minister Ryan has conducted himself with great principle as a politician, and that’s what I wanted to acknowledge really,” she said while adding that she brought the motion forward because there are no Green Party members of the Council.

She said that while she was sure there would be some reservations about the idea, she didn’t expect it to be voted down.

“It’s a signal, it’s a marker, for perhaps a more polarized political culture,” she said of the Council voting against it. 

Fine Gael councillor Jack White was of a similar opinion to Coughlan, saying that it is common practice to make statements of goodwill to retiring senior politicians. 

“I think it was particularly well placed in its intention because, in my opinion, he has been a fantastic minister, who has operated with conviction and courage despite an awful lot of vitriol and abuse,” White said. “I think history will look upon him very kindly.

He also agrees that the vote does not paint the Council in a very positive light.

“Even that it went to a vote is extraordinary,” he said.

“I think it sends a very worrying message about the type of views and kind of narrow mindedness that could come [in this Council term].

“We hear an awful lot of dramatised opinions about how rural Ireland is being decimated. I’ve yet to see rural Ireland being decimated. I need to be fair. What is being decimated is our climate.”

White added that he has never heard that tone struck before in previous Council meetings.

“Normally, there’s more a tone of collegiality and togetherness on something so innocent as wishing somebody well on their retirement.”

There is some disagreement among councillors who spoke to The Journal today about whether the motion was a Vote of Congratulations or a motion wishing Ryan well put to the Council during the Any Other Business stage of the meeting. Coughlan, who proposed it, said it was the latter.

Either way, Danny Collins of Independent Ireland, who spoke against the motion, said he would be opposed to doing both. 

“I have been condemning the man since he’s taken post as the minister,” Collins told The Journal. ” He’s done nothing but ruined the likes of rural Ireland.”

The main reason Collins gave for his opposition was Ryan’s policy when it comes to road building and maintenance.

“All he’s interested in is footpaths and walkways and airy fairy, funny kind of ideas that he comes up with,” he said.

Collins said Ryan had “snubbed” him when he was Mayor of Co Cork. 

“The only thing positive that he has done was announcing he was stepping down.”

Fine Gael councillor Michael Hegarty – who proposed the vote – and the party’s leader on the Council, John Paul O’Shea, were asked for comment.

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