PM accused of highjacking Faro’s City Day
The official photo of the event at Faro Airport which went ahead without the presence of the city's mayor

PM accused of hijacking Faro’s City Day

Citizens outraged; local politicians left fuming

Prime minister António Costa managed to visit Faro this morning and leave citizens fuming.

The reason? As reports explained yesterday, he came down south – in spite of all the pressing issues of government – to commemorate the renaming of Faro Airport (which will henceforth be known as Aeroporto Gago Coutinho in honour of the aviator of that name, who came from São Brás de Alportel).

What was not made clear in yesterday’s soundbites was that this lightning visit collided with Faro’s annual City Day – and a number of ‘dignitaries’ invited to the ceremony found themselves ‘double-booked’.

Whose event won through? Well, you can guess, and this has left the PSD-led municipality smarting.

Mayor Rogério Bacalhau has said he feels the situation is ‘lamentable’. He cannot believe the PM’s official visits are treated with such lack of attention to detail that the significance of the date was not clear – and he showed there has been scant support for the renaming of the airport locally anyway.

“It is a great shame what happened this morning at Faro Airport”, he told reporters. “First because we do not agree with the fact that the name has changed. We don’t understand very well what Gago Coutinho has to do with the borough of Faro, or with the Airport of Faro. There is a group of friends of the prime minister who proposed this, he accepted; it is his right. But what he cannot do is oblige us to agree with this decision. And then there is lamentable fact over lack of coordination…”

Former PSD MP and current president of Faro’s Municipal Assembly, Cristóvão Norte, has backed mayor Bacalhau to the hilt, letting rip over social media:

“What I witnessed today was institutional disregard and disrespect of a degree I have never before encountered in public life.

“A prime minister who schedules a ceremony in a municipality on the City Day of that municipality, in the absence of the council’s own members, at the same time as the celebrations of that municipality – in which distinguished personalities of the region are honoured – and also invites to the occasion many of those who had been invited to those celebrations, does not deserve my respect as a representative of Faro citizens. 

“Mr Prime Minister, today you were a prime minister in lower case. Mr prime minister, do not play politics with your position, or allow yourself to be taken by absolute arrogance because of the majority it gives you.

“Long live Faro!”

Mr Norte’s tirade has been welcomed by his followers, a number of which have reemphasised their discomfort over the stripping the name of Faro from the city’s airport.

No-one means any disrespect to Gago Coutinho, but the airport has survived for nearly 60 years as plain ‘Faro Airport’, and by the look of it, very few people will bother acknowledging that this must change because of the decision of a man who doesn’t appear to have the time, or inclination, to check diary dates.

Bottom line: this was another less than stellar moment for a government that is not having a good week.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com