Fine Gael councillor Gabrielle McFadden, who has declined to attend a Ministerial review of troops in Athlone in protest at the Government's treatment of Custume Barracks.
Cllr Gabrielle McFadden has declined an invitation to attend a Ministerial review of troops who will shortly deploy to Lebanon in Custume Barracks today (Wednesday) because of the manner in which Defence Minister Alan Shatter has treated Custume Barracks, she confirmed this week.
Cllr McFadden, who said she has the height of respect for the troops preparing to deploy to Lebanon, felt she could not attend the review because of the manner in which the Minister for Defence had treated Custume Barracks and Athlone and because of his refusal to meet a delegation from Athlone Town Council to discuss the matter.
Cllr McFadden and her Fine Gael party colleagues Mark Cooney and Alan Shaw as well as Labour Mayor Jim Henson were invited to the review this afternoon but the non-Government party councillors had not been invited to the event up until yesterday afternoon.
Cllr McFadden told the Westmeath Independent: "I got an invite and I declined it. I couldn't attend after what they did to the barracks. I asked that it be put on record that the reason I declined the offer was because of the way the Minister treated Custume Barracks and Athlone and the way he refused to meet the deputation from Athlone Town Council. This doesn't diminish the respect I have for the troops going over to represent our country."
Cllr McFadden will, in fact, be in Government Buildings this afternoon while the review of the troops is being held in Custume Barracks, where she will form part of a delegation from Athlone Town Council selected to meet with a special advisor to the Tánaiste to discuss the downgrade of Custume Barracks.
The fact that only Government party councillors have been invited to attend the Custume Barracks review has been criticised by other councillors, who have dubbed it an act of cronyism and an affront to democracy.
Fianna Fáil's Cllr Aengus O'Rourke said he wasn't invited and said he will form part of the deputation meeting the Tánaiste's advisor today but he had hoped they could postpone that meeting in favour of all councillors meeting the Minister for Defence while he was in Athlone.
"It's outrageous that he's refusing to meet councillors. That's an absolute affront to democracy, in my opinion. It's an absolute whack in the face to councillors and the people of Athlone that we wouldn't be given the opportunity to meet Alan Shatter, the man who has dealt the worst blow to Athlone ever," he said.
"If I wasn't going on this delegation I'd march up and down outside the barracks. For this to be such a drastic break in protocol, to show favouritism and sideline public representatives in a town like Athlone is outrageous.
"It's an act of cronyism to invite your own and ignore others. It's an insult to the people of Athlone who have collectively elected nine public representatives to Athlone Town Council and for some of them to be ignored."
Independent Cllr Kevin 'Boxer' Moran was also annoyed that non-Government councillors had not been invited to the event and said: "The people going to Lebanon are the people who vote for us and they're being dragged into this. We always got to go in and wish them well.
"I'm saddened by this but not surprised," he said.
"I'm saddened and annoyed. The mayor has called a meeting about local government and this needs to be aired out. We should really boycott any Fine Gael or Labour Minister who comes to town."
Fine Gael Cllr Mark Cooney said he had been invited to the review and had been under the impression that all councillors had been invited as this had always been the case and he saw no reason why it shouldn't still be the case. He said he would raise the issue with the powers that be.