Baptism of fire for Kelly as he takes heat over Co Council pact
Newly elected independent councillor Leonard Kelly endured somewhat of a baptism of fire this week as he took his seat on Wexford County Council, after he was forced to explain his decision to enter into a pact with Fianna Fáil in relation to the election of a Chairperson.
The Clonard man was one of several independents to support the Fianna Fáil pact which initially saw New Ross councillor Michael Sheehan take the chains.
When details of the pact emerged, Cllr Kelly came in for some strong criticism online with some followers even going as far as to brand him a 'turncoat'.
'In terms of electing a Chairperson of the county council there were only two options - Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael,' Cllr Kelly explained. 'Politics can be a numbers game and that would have been the case with or without me because they are the two largest groupings. I was approached by both groups.'
'I totally refute that I in some way "sold out",' he continued.
'I never promised that I wouldn't get involved in a pact. At the moment, the pacts are part of the way the system works. It's about evolving the system. This is a political reality and it's not selling out. My record stands in relation to the things I've been involved in and the stances I've taken in the past.'
Having signed up to the pact, Cllr Kelly took a place on the Local Community Development Committee (LCDC), the Educational and Training Board (ETB) committee and the newly established committee for climate change.
'These are all areas that I have a background in,' he said. 'It's more than likely that I wouldn't have been involved in these committees if I hadn't signed up to the pact. I'm a realist and I feel that I can make a much bigger impact by sitting at the table than on the sidelines.'
Cllr Kelly was also keen to stress that he remains staunchly independent and can vote in any way he pleases on any motions that come before the council, as well as tabling whatever motions he sees fit. While some accused him of benefiting financially from the pact, again he refutes this.
'I'm not the chair of any committee, nor do I want to be,' he said. 'I don't make any money from sitting on committees that I'm aware of. Also, I'd like to stress that I'm happy to work with any other councillor that wants to better their local community. I'm not going to exclude anyone who is outside the pact or anything like that.'