Farcical use of ‘In committee’ meetings to gag people-the Great Connell saga.

I am concerned at the incorrect use of ‘in committee’ meetings within the Council. For those not familiar with officialese ‘in committee’ is similar in effect to ‘in camera’ and means that the meeting is private, no minutes are kept and no-one may discuss the meeting in public subsequently.

Kildare-Newbridge municipal district has had ‘in committee’ meetings around the Town Hall, the Skate Park and more recently about the chronic issue with HGVs along Great Connell.

Although ‘in committee’ should only be used – as per the Local Government Act – if it is in ‘in the public interest.’ It has instead been used ‘to protect people from being reported on’ or ‘to stop an issue being discussed by one Councillor’ according to the explanation given by Mayor Kennedy to residents at the start of Friday’s meeting between the Council, residents and representatives from Lidl to discuss the chronic issue with HGV’s along this route.

The Mayor’s decision to hold Friday’s presentation to the residents ‘in committee’ was redundant given the fact that; residents who challenged being gagged were informed they could of course go back to their multiple estates and discuss freely the presentation with other residents and; a meeting had already been held in June, in response to a motion I submitted regarding the chronic traffic issues and a threat by the residents and myself to blockade Great Connell, unless such a meeting took place. (Meeting pictured).

This was the first time in over a decade the residents had met with the Council and Lidl to address the issue, despite a disturbing history of repeated accidents and injuries along the route. All Cllrs were invited to the first meeting and three turned up, apart from myself. All of the ‘sensitive issues’ outlined by Cllr. Crowley on his Facebook page last week in support of an ‘in committee’ meeting, including plans by Lidl for warehouse expansion and the cost of a new link road/land acquisition, had already been discussed at the first meeting.

If the decision to hold the meeting ‘in committee’ had less to do with protecting the public interest and more to do with ‘preventing one councillor from talking about it’ then the ‘in committee’ mechanism is being used, inappropriately, to gag people.

The effect of the decision to hold Friday’s follow up meeting with the residents ‘in committee’ is that I am effectively gagged from talking about the issue. Thankfully, but confusingly, the residents have not been gagged. After they too challenged the meeting being held ‘in committee’, they were informed by the Mayor that they could of course talk about the presentation, to the hundreds of people in their respective estates and areas. If the effect of the ‘in committee’ mechanism is to keep what is discussed private then the use of it in this instance, where residents are free to discuss the presentation with hundreds of people is completely illogical.

The Mayor has asked that the way the arrangements for this meeting have been discussed on social media should be sent to the protocol committee- I certainly hope it does.

It is farcical that I am prevented from talking about the presentation by the Council in relation to the issue which I and the residents had freely talked about on radio and in the press before. Perhaps that’s the problem.

‪#‎transparency ‪#‎publicrepresentatives


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