New Summerhill and Dunshaughlin councillors for FG's two vacant seats
Fine Gael's two vacant seats on Meath County Council following the election of Regina Doherty and Ray Butler to Dail Eireann have been filled, with Gerry O'Connor being co-opted in the Dunshaughlin electoral area and Joe Fox in the Trim electoral area. The co-options were ratified at a special meeting of Meath County Council on Monday afternoon. At last week's selection convention for the Dunshaughlin electoral area, there was an angry reaction from party members when a directive was issued from party headquarters stating that the candidate must be from the Dunshaughlin branch area, which ruled out all candidates except O'Connor. The five nominations that went forward to the convention were Gerry O'Connor, former councillor John Fanning, Aislinn Bobbett, Ciaran Buckley and Pat Donnellan. The directive was not well received among party members present who were annoyed that they could not cast their vote and that this power was taken away from them. It is understood there were approximately 130 voting party members present on the night. Originally from Dublin, Cllr O'Connor has lived in Dunshaughlin since 1984 and is heavily involved in the local community. He was involved in the building of Dunshaughlin Community Centre and has been manager of the centre since 2006. Cllr O'Connor ran as a candidate for Fine Gael in the 2009 local elections where he was eliminated on the 12th count, finishing just six votes behind Cllr Maria Murphy, who was elected. He polled 1,050 first preference votes. Cllr O'Connor said he was there on the night to contest the convention along with four others but said he was disappointed not to get the opportunity to make his case and that the other candidates didn't get to make theirs. However, he said he understood stategically why the party had made the directive as there are already two councillors in the Ashbourne area, a councillor and TD in the Ratoath area, two councillors in Dunboyne but there was no representative for the Dunshaughlin, Dunsany or Culmullen area to represent 8,000 people. Cllr O'Connor said it had been a difficult night but he had got a lot of support from his own branch. He said he was "proud and delighted" to take up his seat in the chamber of Meath County Council at the meeting to ratify the two new councillors on Monday. At the selection convention for the Trim electoral area last week, Dunboyne-based auctioneer Joe Fox was co-opted to the seat vacated by Deputy Ray Butler. Two nominations were received - Joe Fox, who is from Summerhill, and Trim historian Noel French - and it is understood that just a handful of votes separated the two on the night. Cllr Fox said: "I am delighted to have been selected to represent the people of the Trim and surrounding areas on Meath County Council. It is a great honour to be proposed by Fine Gael for the position and then to be accepted by the Meath County Council elected representatives." He said that, in these tough economic times, his main priority will be to attract industry into Meath. "It should become the norm, as the economy recovers, that people can work and live in a sustainable way in our local communities. I will work with the two Fine Gael TDs for Meath West, Damien English and Ray Butler, and my colleague on Meath County Council, Cllr William Carey in the Trim Area, to achieve this," said Cllr Fox. Damien English outlined his support to the newly appointed councillor, saying: "Joe Fox is very well-suited to being a public representative. He will make a great public representative for the people of south Meath. "He is a family man, a businessperson, but equally as important, he is a community man. Joe has for years been in touch with me with the issues of the day for south Meath."