Fianna Fáil's vulnerability in Mayo exposed by splitting of property tax vote as Fine Gael finally gets it act together

A POLITICAL VIEWPOINT BY THE TALLYMAN

The voting patterns for a ten per cent increase in property tax at the most recent meeting of Mayo County Council makes for fascinating political reading.

First and foremost, it was passed by 20 votes to 10 because Fine Gael, with 12 seats, was clearly committed to delivering it on the basis it would kick-start spending on projects that required matching funding in each of the municipal districts.

Despite being in the opposition benches in Aras an Chontae, the party flexed its muscles in a manner which raised some questions about the future of the Fianna Fáil/Independent Alliance which had controlled previous key votes.

Only one Fine Gael member, Patsy O'Brien, did not follow the party line.

To guarantee 11 votes for an issue that, judging from social medial reaction, was unpopular with the public was an achievement.

On the other hand, Fianna Fáil was all over the shop, with seven of its 11 members voting in favour and four against.

This indicated a worrying split within the ranks with speculation that at least one of the four may not be running under the party banner next time out.

The decision of Michael Kilcoyne and Richard Finn to break ranks with their independent alliance colleagues was the first surprise.

Not so much in respect of Finn, who is cathaoirleach of the authority, but Kilcoyne's actions caught observers on the blind side and his colleagues off-guard.

He had been dead keen against any such rise when it came before the elected members last year, so the change in direction was, to say the least, interesting.

But he explained the fact that not one public submission had been made during the consultation process convinced him it was not quite the same hot potato as he originally perceived while the €9 additional charge will only be in place for one year before being revisited.

Kilcoyne was also won over by the need to see projects starting in Castlebar, like the Imperial Hotel, for which he publicly has been agitated about.

So were there winners and losers, politically, as a result of this vote?

Yes, the big losers are Fianna Fáil, which looks to be there for the taking if there is a heave at the next annual general meeting, while Fine Gael, on the other hand, appears to be getting its act together after a poor run.

As for the independents, the decision of some to vote against may have been somewhat influenced by the likelihood of an early general election rather that parochial factors.

In any event, nice to see local politics shaking things up a bit for a change.

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