Westport Independent councillor Johno O’Malley walked out of today’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council stating that he was leaving the meeting in protest over “being left in the dark” by council management over the disposal of land at Westport Demesne by Mayo County Council to Inishoo Management Ltd.
The issue involves the sale of land on Westport’s Golf course road from Mayo County Council to Inishoo Management Ltd, a Hughes owned company, and the deal was given the green light last month by elected councillors of the Westport- Belmullet Municipal District.
The matter then went before the entire council meeting today for consideration, and was approved.
But at this afternoon’s meeting, Cllr Johno O’Malley stated that he had not been given all the necessary information to decide on the sale of the land in question and the value of land secured and surrendered by Mayo County Council, in this deal.
The situation is more complicated than the simple sale of a piece of council land to a private company.
There are in fact three parcels of land involved. Westport GAA urgently requires land to extend its facilities as its membership increases, Mayo county council had some land to provide for their needs under a lease agreement, but not enough. That introduced a third party Inishoo Management Ltd who had appropriate land for the GAA expansion but have a company policy not to sell land. But Mayo County Council and Inishoo Management Ltd are prepared to swop land in an effort to address the situation.
Essentially the deal involves 6.7 acres of land at Westport Demesne to be sold by Mayo County Council to Inishoo Management Ltd for 360,000 euro and Inishoo Management takes ownership of 4.1 acres of Mayo County Council land in exchange.
While cllr O’Malley stated his clear support for the GAA expanding its facilities in Westport, he suggested the GAA were used as “scapegoats” in this deal. He then stated his concerns over the value to the taxpayer of the deal between the local authority and the private company. He accused council management of leaving him in the dark during the negotiations and then walked out.
In response, the Director of Services for Mayo County Council Catherine McConnell said that cllr O’Malley was present at the Westport –Belmullet Municipal District meeting that approved this deal without a vote, at its March meeting. In terms of the cllr being “left in the dark” - in discussions like this, she said, everyone is not involved in the initial stages of negotiations, due to confidentiality, but she insisted there is nothing underhanded about that.
The CE of Mayo County Council Peter Duggan explained that in any negotiations, talks are at a certain level in private before going into the public sphere, because there has to be a balance, he explained, and often early discussions yield no result.
But he insisted this deal is good value for money for Mayo County Council. Both pieces of land were independently valued and he insisted the local authority was in compliance through all stages of these negotiations.
He said a workshop on the details of the proposed deal was provided for elected councillors in the Municipal District last month.
Peter Duggan said the GAA had approached Mayo County Council for land to expand it facilities and the land swop between the authority and Inishoo Management Ltd will allow the GAA to expand and at the same time, consolidates council land at that location.