Letter to the Taoiseach re Barry Walsh, the Disciplinary Committee and me

Sent Monday 20th September 
Dear Taoiseach
Please find below correspondence sent to the National Executive and disciplinary committee relating to but not exclusive to the disparity between how complaints by Deputy O Connell about male members of FG have been dealt with versus how complaints by myself about male members of FG have been dealt with.
It also highlights the disparity between how complaints by male FG members about myself were dealt with versus how complaints by myself about male FG members were dealt with
I would welcome you expressing an opinion as you did in relation to Kate O Connell and her complaint re a FG member.
I eagerly await your response
Regards,
Fiona
Subject: Inconsistency in treatment of complaints by the National Executive and its Disciplinary committee- for distribution to the National Executive committee and the disciplinary committee

Dear Gerry

It was with much relief that I heard that Barry Walsh had resigned from his position on the National Executive, the governing body of the Fine Gael party. While I applaud Deputy Kate O Connell calling out bad behaviour by a Fine Gael member, she is not as you know, the first FG public representative to do so.
Last year, I was the subject of a complaint by a member of Fine Gael on behalf of the Fine Gael group in Kildare. Barry Walsh was one of those selected to sit in judgement of me for ‘bringing the party into disrepute’. My crime was that I had tried to hold the then Mayor to account for holding a meeting of group leaders at which he sought support from the group leaders to be allowed to block my future motions in the Council. The Mayor was a senior member of my Fine Gael group. While there are different versions of how the meeting happened in the first place and who participated in the discussion, it has since been accepted by the leaders of SF, FF and FG in Kildare County Council that a discussion was held during the meeting about blocking my motions. The meeting happened in November 2015 at a time when I was one of two FG general election candidates for the upcoming General Election in February 2016, just three months later.
Fine Gael received an official complaint from me last November before I had the Whip removed. I was assured by FG HQ that my complaint would be investigated with the same vigor as the investigation of the complaint against me. Six months later, frustrated by the lack of any progress re the investigation of my complaint I contacted the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. I informed him of the history of bad behaviour by Fine Gael members in Kildare ranging from blocking me unilaterally and without consultation from Council committees in which I had an interest to the groups ongoing, long-term failure to support my motions in the Council. I informed him of the school boys jokes about my name being on the cleaning cupboard in the Mayors office and of the sexist jeering about training provided by FG HQ during my first local election campaign.  I informed him that a FG Councillor had falsely stated on KFM that I had made no attempt to contact the Mayor before submitting a motion of no confidence in him for calling the secret meeting. I informed the Taoiseach about serious allegations made by a Council employee about a member of the FG group.
Barry Walsh had already heard the evidence of the bad behaviour by members of the Fine Gael group including the evidence provided by the Council employee. Very senior members of the party and the National Executive of FG have heard and are aware of the evidence of the long-term, persistent bad behaviour by certain members of FG in Kildare. On September 28th last,  I attended an ‘Integrity At Work’ conference run by Transparency international Ireland. Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan who had launched Deputy Heydon’s any my General Election campaign in 2016, spoke to the audience assembled, urging them to support people who speak out about wrongdoing at work.  I met with the Minister after his speech and thanked him for urging organisations to support whistleblowers. I informed him of what was happening in FG in Kildare and of my deep concern about the Executive’s failure to investigate my complaints about FG colleagues in marked contrast to the National Executive’s investigation of the complaint made by my male colleagues about me. I asked the Minister for Justice for help.  I have yet to receive any response.
Kate O Connell is not the first FG member to call out bad behaviour. And she won’t be the last. We need to ask why misogynist, bad behaviour is worthy of an immediate response in this case however, when similar bad behaviour over a longer period of time has been ignored, both in relation to Barry Walsh and in relation to FG members in Kildare?
All complaints of bad behaviour should be investigated and dealt with promptly . Having brought it to the attention of the Taoiseach and pressed for progress, at the beginning of August, almost nine months after I lodged my complaint, I was informed by the Secretary General of Fine Gael, Tom Curran that the ‘National Executive have come to a determination on your complaint… that the disciplinary committee do not intend to hold a hearing into the said complaint. However they are of the view that the matters raised point to a number of shortcomings’.  The letter went on to say that the ‘Disciplinary Committee intended to recommend to the Executive that a group of Councillors from outside Kildare be charged with the responsibility for devising protocols pertaining to the holding of group meetings. Such a protocol would deal with the calling of group meetings, conduct of such meetings, minuting of decisions and communications among members. The said group of Cllrs would also devise a protocol covering arrangements with other political groupings including the minuting of arrangements entered into. We would appreciate if you would become involved in such a group’ 
In effect, a group of Cllrs need to be brought in from outside the County to explain to the FG group in the Council, some of whom are in politics for decades, how to conduct a meeting and how to communicate with Cllrs within their group. Yet, the Cllrs whose behaviour had triggered the need for such a unique and unprecedented intervention and review was to attract no consequences whatsoever, not even an appearance before the Disciplinary Committee as had been required of myself. Twice.  In response I expressed my extreme disappointment at the obvious bias in the way complaints about others and complaints about myself had been dealt with. I asked for the identity of the Cllrs who are to be tasked with such a significant review and with whom I was being asked to collaborate. Two months later, I am still asking for the names of the Cllrs the National Executive are entrusting with the review.
Now that Barry Walsh has resigned from his position on the National Executive and from the Disciplinary Committee triggered by his inappropriate and misogynistic behaviour together with the evidently different response by the National Executive/Disciplinary Committee to complaints about myself versus the response to complaints about my male colleagues, I propose in light of Barry Walsh’s resignation that there is an urgent need for a review of complaints investigated by disciplinary committees in which Mr Walsh participated, for any evidence of unjust, inconsistent or biased outcomes . The swift response to Deputy O Connells complaint further highlights the damning and inexplicable failure of the National Executive to assign the same sense of urgency to dealing with my complaint about male FG colleagues. I request an explanation as to why the National Executive have been stalling on revealing the identity of the Cllrs that are to be brought in to advise senior FG Cllrs in Kildare as to how to conduct themselves around meetings, the minuting of meetings and arrangements entered into with other party’s and around their communications with fellow Councillors.  
I eagerly await your response
Kind Regards,
Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy

Review of the Twinning structure and function within the Council

My final question at Tuesday (15th Nov) MD meeting, ‘Can the council provide an update on the review of the Twinning structure and function within the council as it relates to Twinning in the district including: the legal status of two new town Twinning arrangements agreed this year, contrary to legislation expressly prohibiting councillors from agreeing new town Twinning without first providing a costing for the proposed arrangement; details of the expenses  allocated to municipal district councillors to travel with municipal district town Twinning groups since 2014 ; who has signed off on public representatives Twinning expenses each year since 2014; what if any protocol or criteria were to be met by a councillor before travelling and/or drawing down expenses; how councillors have been selected to travel on municipal district town Twinning trips?
Here is the report issued by : Ms A. Scanlon, Administrative Officer, Community & Culture
Question 1: Can the council provide an update on the review of the Twinning structure and function with the council as it relates to twinning in the district.
Response: A draft policy is being developed and has yet to be agreed by the protocol committee a review will form part of this.
Question 2 : The legal status of two new town twinning arrangements agreed this year?
Response: There has only being one new twinning in 2017 which was agreed by the members at
the Kildare-Newbridge Municipal District meeting in January 2017.
The other 4 questions will be dealt with as part of the review.

Council provide update re: its function in relation to the Riverbank Arts Centre

One of my questions at Tuesday (15th Nov) MD meeting, ‘Can the council provide an update re: the exercise of its oversight function in relation to the Riverbank Arts Centre (as per terms and conditions of funding) since  informed of governance and compliance issues addressing specifically in the update: the lower than mandated number of directors on the Board; the lack of diversity on the Board; the failure to cap the length of time of directors on the Board; the lack of transparency around Board member selection; the lack of transparency around the reporting mechanism between the Board and the council; the conflicting reports provided by the Arts Centre Chairperson and the council’s Director of Community re: the role of the county librarian in relation to the Arts Centre; the failure of the council to respond to queries re: whether conflicts of interests were declared in relation to the project design and/or in relation to any other project or job allocations?

Report Issued by: Ms S. Kavanagh, Director of Service, Economic, Community and Cultural,  ‘The council is satisfied with the responses provided by the Board of Management of the Riverbank Arts Centre. The responses were also circulated to the Kildare-Newbridge Municipal District members on the 1 of August 2017. The councillor has asked on a number of occasions about the role of the County Librarian and why I invited the County Librarian to attend the Kildare-Newbridge Municipal District meeting; I answered the question in my email to the members of 1 of August 2017. In relation to the charge that there has been a “failure of the council to respond to queries regarding whether conflicts of interest were declared” ; this charge is absolutely refuted. The question was answered by the Board of Management in their response to the members (my email of 1 August 2017 refers).
Development

Review of the Town Hall by its Management Committee

My final motion at Tuesday (15th November) MD meeting ‘ That the council present to councillors the long overdue review of the Town Hall by its management committee so we can get on with the more effective and efficient marketing and pricing of this important community amenity as called for earlier this year, with an eye to delivering both social and financial dividends for the community and the taxpayers who have funded it.

Here is the report issued by: Ms A Scanlon, Administrative Officer, Community & Culture. ‘As agreed a review would be carried out after a trial period of one year. As 2017 has come to an end, the review is being finalised and will be presented at the December meeting.

Plan for delivering the Town Design Statements for Newbridge and Kildare Town

Another of my motions at at Tuesday (15th November) MD meeting  ‘That the Municipal District Manager outline his plan/schedule for delivering the Town Design Statements for both Newbridge and Kildare town.
Here is the Report Issued by Mr T McDonnell, Director of Service, Housing and Corporate Services,  A draft schedule for delivery as follows:
– Preparation for a Town Renewal Plan Brief for Kildare Town and a Health Check/Urban Design Analysis and Town Renewal Plan Brief for Newbridge in November.
– Tender to the Urban Design Framework early December with a tender period of 3 weeks and a return date for the end of December.
– Tender assessment and pre-qualification of the successful Design Team – January 2018.
– Anticipated appointment of the Design Team – February 2018.
– Timeline for completion of the Kildare Town Renewal Plan (including consultation) is approximately 3 / 4 months and an estimated timeline for completion of the Health Check and Town Renewal Plan for Newbridge is 5/6 months (including consultation).

Traffic Management Plan for Kildare Town & Newbridge

My first motion at Tuesday’s (15th November) MD meeting, ‘In light of worsening traffic chaos, that we get an update on the status of traffic management plan for Kildare Town and Newbridge Town and a plausible explanation for the ongoing delay. In the absence of a delivery date, I reiterate the request to see the current iteration of the plan however far from agreement.
Report October 2017: The members will be updated on continued discussions with the National Transport Authority (NTA) at the municipal district meeting. The outline of the proposal submitted to NTA proposed using a multi-disciplinary team, with the main objective being the creation of an enhanced environment with multi-functional
streets, maximised connectivity, permeability and ease of movement. The outline proposal and associated draft tender documents have been provided to CouncillorMcLoughlin Healy. The Roads Department will copy the draft documents (circa 70 pages) to all members if required.
Update November 2017: The Director of Services Transportation met with Mr. Hugh Creegan, Director of Transport Investment and Taxi Regulations in the National Transport Authority within the last 2 weeks in order to outline the frustration being experienced by the officials and elected members in Kildare County Council in regard to a number of Kildare County Council projects being delayed, including the proposed Traffic Management Plan for Newbridge. Mr. Creegan outlined his difficulties with funding, in addition to the fact that recent experiences with Traffic Management Plans (TMP)’s funded in other counties had not delivered the type of blueprint that provided value for money or tangible outcomes. Therefore Mr. Creegan offered, as an alternative, that he would assign one of the NTA’s Strategic Planning staff to develop a Transport Plan for Newbridge. The initial desktop analysis and information gathering has commenced, and on the 30 November the NTA staff member and the head of the NTA Strategic Planning Section will meet with the Director of Services and the Senior Engineer in Roads to outline and agree a series of workshops and workplan that ultimately will produce a Transport Plan for Newbridge.
The members will be kept updated on progress. A review of the data from the existing Kildare town TMP has not been carried out and therefore the Roads Department is not in a position to provide a report at this time. The replacement of the Senior Executive Engineer (Traffic) has been requested and is awaited.

Provision of Bus Shelters in Co.Kildare

A set of tables, in link below sets out the feasibility following the site assessments and a summary of the position is as follows;

1. There are 5 locations where bus shelters can be provided without any other works being required. Locations are;

  • Moorefield Road, Newbridge (Moorefield Crescent opposite Tesco, Inbound),
  • Moorefield Road, Newbridge (Outside Woodies and Tesco, Outbound),
  • Kildare Town at Market House,
  • Allenwood (Inward / Dublin Direction)
  • Allenwood (Outward/Edenderry Direction).

2. There are 18 locations where bus shelters can be installed but where some enabling works by the Council would be required. NTA will fund those enabling works in full but would need the Council to undertake or arrange them.

3.There are 36 locations where NTA do not consider it appropriate to install a bus shelter at this point in time

Provision of Bus Shelters in County Kildare

 

 

I call on Chair, Vice-Chair and Minutes Secretary of KWETB to consider their positions.

Thanks to the Leinster Leader for this week’s report of the public part of last Wednesday’s Kildare Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB) board meeting.

Before the discussion of the minutes from the previous meeting of the board (held Sept 27th) were raised on the agenda of last Wednesday’s board meeting (Oct 11th) I asked that the Chair, the Vice Chair and the Corporate Services manager all be deputed or replaced for the duration of any discussion relating to the investigation of the KWETB by the Department of Education and Skills

The Minutes Secretary (who is the Corporate Affairs Manager) has a senior management role in relation to one of the main areas being investigated. Chairs have had signing authority relating to the area in question. We as a board have a duty to ensure that not only conflicts of interest but any perceptions of conflicts of interest are managed. Let me be clear, I am casting no aspersions on the Corporate Affairs Manager, the Chair or the Vice-Chair – it is in everyone’s best interests including theirs to ask that they consider stepping down from their duties for the duration of the investigation, given the potential for conflicts of interest

I have serious concerns that a false narrative is being constructed in relation to the boards response to the investigation of the KWETB by the Department of Education. As a board member I am concerned that despite repeated requests we have not been provided with all of the legal advice that has been made available to the Chair and the Vice-Chair for and on behalf of the board. This is particularly worrying in light of the fact that both the Chair and the Vice Chair are reported to have taken independent personal legal advice which has not been made available to the boards. I have also had access to a document which provides evidence of a malicious misrepresentation of a private/in camera/incommittee meeting called by the Chair on September 19th. Although the meeting did not go ahead because the Chair and former Chair had acted outside their powers by calling a secret meeting, that is not what is officially documented in the memo

I am perturbed also by the Chairs decision to deviate from the standard practice of reading a letter into correspondence at the public board meeting last Wednesday 11th.
A letter from KWETB CEO Sean Ashe confirming he was attending the World Skills Conference , despite being asked to remain at home to co-operate with the investigation, was not read out at the public board meeting. No one knew where the CEO was and no one informed those present at the public meeting why the CEO was not there. There is no justifiable explanation in my mind for hiding this letter from the public.

Taking all of these circumstances into account I have respectfully asked the Chair, the Vice-Chair and the Minutes secretary to again consider their positions in order to demonstrate the highest levels of integrity and transparency in the Boards co-operation with the department regarding the investigation of the KWETB

#KWETB #governance #boardresponsibilities

 

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Council work together with interested community groups to help identify locations around the district for the development of a community garden scheme

My second adjourned motion at today’s (18th Oct) MD meeting; ‘That the council work together with interested community groups including local Grow It Yourself (GIY) groups to help identify locations around the district for the development of a community garden scheme.

Report: Kildare County Council has no objection in principle to the development of community gardens. More information is required in relation to the location of the interest groups and their expectations as our experience to date has been that there is different aspirations as to the size, function and design of the gardens. There is limited land available in the municipal area for recreational activities such as this. Much of what is available has been highlighted to the municipal district members already. Any additional work related to this request could only be considered once the existing Parks Section works programme has been completed.