Two elected members of Mayo County Council have questioned the legitimacy of the authority's decision to approve the co-option of new Bonniconlon Councillor John O'Hara to the county's vocational education committee.
Independent Councillor Richard Finn and Sinn Féin Councillor Gerry Murray claimed the Fine Gael party on the
Councillor Murray said the Vocational Education Act 1930 was very specific in relation to the resignation and disqualification of committee members.
The Act states: "A member of a vocational education committee may at any time resign his office as such member by letter addressed and sent to the chief executive officer of such committee and every such resignation shall take effect at the commencement of the meeting of such committee commencing next after the receipt of such resignation by such officer."
As the resignation of Mr. Guthrie could only come into effect at the next meeting of Mayo VEC on Thursday next, March 31, Councillor Murray said the decision taken by the council at a special meeting on March 21 was effectively null and void.
"A male vacancy did not exist. So Fine Gael's actions were in breach of legislation," he explained.
Councillor Finn raised his concerns at a special in-committee meeting of Mayo VEC last Thursday which was called to debate planning and development issues.
A denial of his claims was issued by Fine Gael Councillor Eddie Staunton and former party councillor Pat Kilbane.
When contacted by The Connaught Telegraph, the chairman of the VEC, Councillor Jarlath Munnelly, said the resignation of Deputy Mulherin from the VEC had been automatically triggered by the dual mandate legislation and the issue of replacing her was on the agenda of the county council's special meeting on March 21.
In respect of replacing her with a male representative, he stated the argument being put forward by Councillor Murray and Councillor Finn is incorrect
"We made a decision as a party to nominate Councillor O'Hara in view of the fact a male vacancy was created by the decision of Castlebar Town Council nominee, Kevin Guthrie, to step down. The onus was not on us to nominate a female replacement," he said.
Councillor Munnelly drew attention to the fact meetings of Mayo VEC were not held for a period after elected members of Castlebar Town Council declined to replace Councillor Noreen Heston on the VEC with a woman nominee.
Consequently, a male member of the county council, Councillor Gerry Coyle, resigned from the committee to allow for the co-option of Michelle Mulherin to address a problem concerning gender balance.
"I am sure when the members of Castlebar Town Council meet to nominate Mr. Guthrie's replacement they will act responsibly," he added.