Youghal’s Labour Councilor, Tommy O’Connell has claimed that Labour Party leader, Eamonn Gilmore is carrying out an investigation following a request from the General Secretary of the party to Youghal Town Clerk, Mr. Liam Ryan last week that Mr. O’Connell’s seat on the council be nullified.
The shock move follows Mr. O’Connell’s nomination and subsequent co-option onto the council seat in the aftermath of Cllr. Donie Daly’s resignation just over a month ago. Confusion reigns over last week’s bizarre event and continues to damage the public relations of the party branch in Youghal.
Further to the revelation that the General Secretary of the Labour Party asked for Mr. O’Connell to be removed, the party’s press office accused the Youghal Council of negligence in the co-opting process.
The news first broke on Tuesday morning when Mr. Ryan informed members at a special meeting to discuss budgets and traffic management that he had been in correspondence with the General Secretary of the Labour Party on Friday evening Oct. 29th. Mr. Ryan told shocked members that the Labour Party said they ‘were not happy with the selection process of Tommy O’Connell’ and that they requested the councilor’s nomination be ‘nullified’. The Town Clerk added that he was asked to reply to the Labour Party by 5pm Monday. Mr. Ryan then contacted Mr. O’Connell and advised him that it would ‘not be appropriate’ for him to come to Tuesday’s special meeting. Before any of the members could respond to the news the Town Clerk advised them that the matter was an ‘internal party issue that has nothing to do with us’.
By noon Tuesday The Labour Party Press Office claimed that the problem with Mr. O’Connell’s co-option lies with the Youghal Town Clerk. When asked why the Labour Party had contacted the council with their request, Mr. Tony Heffernan said. “The proper selection procedure wasn’t fulfilled under the law. All candidates are required to have a certificate of political affiliation. Mr. O’Connell doesn’t. I presume the Town Clerk is familiar with the law and would have checked the legal requirements. The Town Council wasn’t entitled to co-opt him.” Mr. Ryan responded that he would make ‘no comment on internal Labour Party procedures’.
On hearing the Labour Party Press Office claims on Tuesday afternoon Mr. O’Connell said the dispute over his legitimacy as a certified member of the party was a ‘smokescreen’. He also claimed that those with a ‘vested interest’ in discrediting the Youghal branch ‘will fail’. “I don’t have a certificate. However, I have a membership card and I have a letter from head office accepting my donation. That information was conveyed to the Town Clerk. This is a petty procedure in the extreme and is an internal issue. Someone at a senior level within the Labour Party has an ulterior motive. I believe it comes from potential candidates looking to destroy the Youghal branch before an election. We have contacted Eamonn Gilmore and he is investigating the matter. We won’t take this lying down,” he said.
On Saturday, the controversy continued to evolve with a special sitting of the Youghal branch at the Walter Raleigh Hotel. Labour election candidates for Cork East, John Mulvihill and Sean Sherlock were in attendance to ratify Mr. O’Connell’s nomination. How Labour Party headquarters receive the move is unknown but have stated that they want the seat filled ‘as quickly as possible’ though no timeframe was given nor has any name yet been identified for selection. The move by the Labour Party marks a new phase in what has been a tumultuous number of months for the Youghal branch.