A MAJOR row has erupted after 10 Fianna Fáil councillors adopted Donegal county council's 2010 budget while the other 19 councillors were in a meeting down the hall of the council offices in Lifford.

There have been calls for the resignation of the mayor, FF councillor Brendan Byrne, after he allowed a quorum of nine party colleagues and himself to adopt the budget in the absence of councillors from Labour, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and independents at the 22 December meeting.

Labour councillor Frank McBrearty Jnr has accused Fianna Fáil of "dirty-tricks politics" and said Byrne "should step down as his position as mayor is now untenable. Whatever trust we had in him is lost now".

It is understood that Sinn Féin, Labour and Fine Gael are now considering withdrawing their cooperation from Fianna Fáil in areas such as the election of the mayor and committee members.

Byrne vehemently defended his actions and said it was up to the 19 councillors to be in the chamber instead of "wheeling and dealing behind closed doors".

The day-long meeting adjourned for lunch at 3pm; after the council returned at 4.10pm, Fine Gael and Labour sought an adjournment until 5pm, which was granted.

Byrne claimed that he rang an "assembly bell" three times at 5pm upon his return and started the meeting at 5.10pm.

"Fine Gael, Sinn Féin, Labour and the Independents should have presented themselves to the meeting. I am absolutely clear in my conscience that I did not breach any rules as each councillor has a personal responsibility to be in the chamber at the designated time," Byrne said.