Hogan returns to council chamber

Athlone native Paul Hogan is returning to the council chamber after emerging victorious following a co-option vote at the local authority monthly meeting this afternoon.

He took the vote by 12 to Kevin 'Boxer' Moran's six, to the fill the casual vacancy on Westmeath County Council, caused by the unexpected resignation of Jamie Moran.

The outgoing Cllr Jamie Moran had nominated his father, former Minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran to fill the vacancy.

Typically, in a co-option situation where a member has resigned, a successor is nominated by the outgoing councillor and elected unopposed. However, from outset it was clear there would be a contest in this case.

There was much debate about the rules and questions about what had changed from 2016 when Kevin 'Boxer' Moran had to vacate his seat on election to the Dáil, and then Ailish McManus was nominated in his place and came through unopposed.

Indeed, Labour's Denis Leonard claimed it was a “power grab” at the expense of smaller parties and independent candidates, an accusation refuted by Fianna Fáil's John Shaw, who had earlier nominated Paul Hogan to fill the vacancy. It was seconded by his party colleague Cllr Aoife Davitt.

Mick Dollard, the only other Independent representative on the local authority, nominated Kevin 'Boxer' Moran to fill the vacancy, and this was seconded by Labour's Denis Leonard.

Cllr Dollard said he was doing so in the interests of “openness and fairness” for non-party candidates.

A nomination put forward by Green Cllr Louise Heavin of Irena Cvetkovic, Athlone Community Radio Manager, did not progress as it did not have the support of six members to go forward to a vote or the required paperwork.

In the end the vote was won by Paul Hogan 12 to 6, with the Fianna Fáil group going with him en-masse along with the two Greens Cllrs Louise Heavin and Hazel Smyth, and Fine Gael's Andrew Duncan. Cllr Emily Wallace (FG) was the only abstention.

Those who sided with Boxer were the Fine Gael group of Cllrs John Dolan, Tom Farrell and Frankie McDermott, Independent Cllr Mick Dollard, Labour's Denis Leonard and Johnny Penrose.

CEO Pat Gallagher repeatedly told members that the process was governed by the Section 19 of the Local Government Act, 2001, as amended, and their own Standing Order 15, that is the council's own procedure.

For non-party candidates, this provides for the council filling the vacancy by anyone they (members) deem suitable and eligible for the vacancy, providing they meet the requirements and eligibility..

Following the vote, Paul Hogan said it was great to receive such “overwhelming support from across the board” and he said he was humbled and thankful for that.

He pledged to be an active team member on the council and a strong independent voice in the chamber on the issues that matter to the public.