A political row has erupted in Carrick-on-Suir over plans to erect a memorial statue of GAA founder Maurice Davin in the town and host a festival in his honour next year.
Several members of Carrick-on-Suir Town Council have taken umbrage that they have not been consulted about the plans for the proposed nine ft limestone statue of the GAA’s first president outside Davin Park and the sports and cultural festival that is planned for the May Bank Holiday Weekend next year.
They are also angry the Maurice Davin Memorial Committee is being chaired by a political figure, Labour county councillor Bobby Fitzgerald, and includes Senator Denis Landy and accused it of being a Labour party project.
But Cllr Fitzgerald has hit back insisting that the Memorial Committee is a non-political community initiative in accordance with its constitution, comprising like-minded GAA and sports people, who wanted to achieve something positive for the town.
While two Labour representatives wer among its members, there were also people from other political party affiliations including Fine Gael and Sinn Fein involved and he was personally involved through his long association with the Davin GAA Club, while Senator Landy’s father was a former chairman of the club.
There were ructions at the Town Council’s meeting on Monday when Labour Cllr Sarah Dunne presented a letter she received from the Memorial Committee that morning outlining details about its plans.
Cllr Dunne produced the letter after Fine Gael Cllr Margaret Croke tabled a motion requesting the Council to hold a public consultation process to discuss the erection of a monument to Davin and consider holding a festival in 2014 to coincide with the GAA’s 130th anniversary celebrations.
Cllr Croke called for it to be a “non-political cross party project” in conjunction with the GAA, rugby and athletics clubs in the town along with another person, who may be interested in the project.
Earlier that day, the Maurice Davin Memorial Committee, which also comprises representatives of Carrick’s three GAA Clubs and the Davin Field Committee, issued a press release to The Nationalist detailing its proposals.
The release revealed that sculptor Barry Wrafter has been commissioned to create the statue, which will require planning permission, and President Michael D Higgins has been invited to unveil the monument.
The Committee also welcomed the news that South Tipperary Development Company has at board level sanctioned a €44,000 grant to assist in the development of the memorial statue and the festivities.
A Maurice Davin Memorial Fund has been set up by the Memorial Committee to fundraise for the statue and festival, which it’s estimated will cost about E70,000 overall.
After Cllr Dunne produced the Memorial Committee letter to the meeting, Cllr Croke replied that the information it contained was news to her while Fianna Fail Cllr Kieran Bourke said it was a “closed shop” matter, a “private club”.
His party colleague Cllr Sylvia Cooney-Sheehan said she took exception to a private group planning a nine foot monument without consulting the people of Carrick-on-Suir and the Town Council. It was the “height of rudeness”, she complained, and pointed out that the lack of consultation meant the only opportunity for people of the town to have their say on the monument would be to lodge a submission or objection to the planning application.
“If there is a group out there, don’t you think it would be good manners of them to explain (their plans) to the Council and bring us up to speed on it,” she declared.
She also took issue with the committee being chaired by a Labour councillor and claimed that having such a political figure as chairperson was a conflict of interest
Independent Cllr Pierce O’Loughlin said this initiative came from a political party, who approached the management of the Davin Field. He claimed there had been a deliberate attempt to exclude other councillors and it wasn’t the first time this party had tried this.
The wider community wasn’t being embraced and involved in this project to honour a great man, he complained.
Cllr Cooney-Sheehan called for a representative of the Memorial Committee be requested to explains their plans to the Town Council’s elected members.
Cllr Dunne, meanwhile, insisted she had returned from a week abroad that day and assumed everyone had received the letter from the Memorial Committee. She insisted that while members of her party were on the Memorial Committee this didn’t mean it was purely a Labour party initiative.
In relation to Cllr Croke’s motion, Town Clerk Michael O’Brien pointed out that it didn’t make much sense to host a public consultation process and ignore the fact that a committee was already in place and was well advanced in planning another statue.
After further discussions, it was decided to defer the motion and invite a representative of the Memorial Committee to address the Council at a workshop on May 28.
And Cllr Kieran Bourke and Cllr O’Loughlin insisted the Council’s members welcomed a statue of Maurice Davin being erected in the town and the proposed festival but just wanted the wider community involved.
Meanwhile, Cllr Bobby Fitzgerald pointed out that a letter from the Memorial Committee updating the Town Council about its plans was submitted to the Town Hall on Monday before the Council meeting.
He said after consulting with the other members of the Committee he would not be taking up the request to attend the Council workshop as their group was non-political.