Kildare has two new mayors, but the Naas Mayor will receive €3,000 more in allowances for his services than his Kildare/Newbridge counterpart.
Councillors in the municipal district areas of Naas and Newbridge last week opted to reinstate the status of Mayor for the chairs of their district.
Both Newbridge and Naas traditionally had town council mayors, but the town councils were abolished as part of local government reforms. However, legislation allows for the Cathaoirleach of a municipal district containing a town with over 20,000 people to use the title of Mayor instead.
Last Tuesday, July 15, the question of whether or not to use the title of Mayor caused heated debate at the Naas Municipal District meeting.
District Chairperson, independent Councillor Seamie Moore, argued strongly for the use of the title, saying that Naas is comparable to towns such as Athlone, Mullingar and Carlow which have retained the title of Mayor.
However, Fine Gael’s Darren Scully opposed the proposal. “It is confusing for people if there are three or four mayors in one county. I think it’s absolute madness,” he added.
The proposal went to a vote, with Cllrs Moore, Lawless, Robert Power (FF), Billy Hillis (FG) and Fintan Brett (FG) voting in favour of the title ‘Mayor’. Cllrs Scully and Anne Breen (Lab) voted against, Cllr Sorcha O’Neill (SF) abstained and Cllr Willie Callaghan was absent from the meeting.
The Mayor of the Naas Municipal District qualifies for a €12,000 additional allowance, but councillors can opt to reduce that rate. Smaller municipal districts, such as Athy, qualify just for a €6,000 chairperson rate.
Cllr Moore noted that there would be lots of calls on the chairperson or Mayor’s time, and recommended that the figure be kept at €12,000. Cllr Hillis seconded the recommendation, which was passed without comment.
However, the allowance figure for the Mayor of the Kildare Municipal District (which includes Newbridge) was debated at length the following day at that district’s monthly meeting.
It was agreed that a payment of €9,000 will be paid to the Mayor of the Kildare Municipal District, however with up to €12,000 on the table there was discord between members.
Cllr Willie Crowley (Ind), Deputy Mayor Fiona McLoughlin Healy (FG) and Cllr Paddy Kennedy (Ind) all pushed for the full amount of €12,000.
Cllr Crowley argued that members should “take full advantage of whatever is provided” given the demands of the office, including the expense and time constraints of the role.
Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy said that a reduction was a wrong message to send to the people of Newbridge.
Cllr Paddy Kennedy suggested that the Mayor take the full amount but with the implication that the individual would make a discretionary payment to a local community group. However this was deemed to be not feasible.
Mayor of Kildare Cllr Fiona O’Loughlin proposed that the figure be reduced to €9,000. Mayor of the Municipal District, Suzanne Doyle (FF) said it was a ‘delicate matter’ but added that a message had to be sent to people that “we are trying to do more with less”.
Cllr Doyle had the casting vote and opted for a €9,000 expenses figure adding that it was a sizeable amount and she would err on the side of caution.
It was also agreed to use of title of Mayor and Deputy Mayor.
The Municipal District of Celbridge-Leixlip will decide on the same issues at this Friday’s meeting.