Primetime will examine corruption within local Councils and the difficulties achieving transparency on Monday – only 4 days to go! I continue to be appalled (but not surprised) by the vitriol and personal attacks directed at me for raising what is a clear conflict of interest in the administration of public funds by the Council’s 1916 Commemoration committee. Here is the statement I read out on Monday in response to report on my Motion.#transparency #answerthequestion
“In the interests of transparency let me explain that the genesis for this motion was a query by a friend of mine some weeks ago as to what was needed to be awarded a grant from the 1916 commemoration committee. According to the guidelines presented here today his groups application for a grant would have met and exceeded most of the criteria, especially by comparison to at least some of the 66 projects that have been listed for funding.
For the purposes of clarity, the application was for a grant to help put on a play – written by a local from Newbridge, about the 1916 Rising which included local actors, narrators, a popular, local music group called the Druids, all involved in an innovative re-telling of the story of the 1916 Rising. I say innovative because it is one of the first plays around the 1916 rising if not the first play in Ireland to tell the story of the 1916 Rising through the folk music and poetry of the time. The project involved participants from a centre for troubled people in Allenwood, who had carers at every rehearsal. It had the consultant advice of the Capuchin Friars, the only order to administer the last rights where they were needed to the wounded civilians and soldiers during the 1916 Rising. The project was given access to the Capuchins museum to which few have gained access. And a Capuchin friar played a part in the play. The play focused on John Devoy, the Kildare connection and what was happening in the Curragh Camp at the time.
The play group made an application for funding to the 1916 Commemoration committee which by any measure met the criteria listed in this report for community participation; innovation or imaginative approaches, focus on county Kildare, involvement of historians and involvement of artists…… but was turned down on the grounds that it was “outside the scope” of the committee awards. Looking at the list now before me, it is a cause for concern that when compared to some of the awards listed ( notwithstanding the flimsy information provided) that it not only met but exceeded criteria for grants,arguably better than some of those awarded. This group went on to perform for the one night only it was eventually permitted in the Riverbank-our local community theatre, despite having a waiting list for tickets that would have filled what was an empty Riverbank on a second night.
Let me be clear, this project is not seeking a grant now from the committee. Nor am I on their behalf. Indeed, such was the success of the play named Laochra Gael, the group have been invited to perform in Glasgow, Dublin, Belfast and even in America in the run up to the 1916 Commemoration. The reason I am providing the background is to provide an example of an application that was turned down by the committee as “being outside the scope of the project” that everyone here, Cllrs and officials can use as a comparison which might help to measure the fairness and/or the transparency around the projects and any conflicts of interest around the allocation of grants from this committee.
The red flag raised for me around the allocation of grants have not been assuaged by the provision of this list of projects awarded, and not just because of the very vague descriptions provided about projects that were successful. Bluebells and Buskers, a wonderful annual music event in Killinthomas woods, founded and promoted by the Chair of the committee and her family in honour of her Father is listed as a beneficiary of the grants administered by this committee. This by any measure is a clear conflict of interest. Before even asking the question as to how or why this event was more deserving of a grant than the example I have provided, lets just examine the fact that a chair of a committee with responsibility for administering grants , is a founding member of a group who have benefitted from a grant from the committee the Councillor chairs. There are, at the very least, questions to be asked relating to good governance –
Were conflicts of interest declared?
Did the application from a group of which the chairperson of the committee is a founding member meet the criteria any more clearly than any applicants who were turned down?
Who on the committee was aware or made aware that the Chair and the applicant for the grant were founders of the annual festival event seeking a grant?
What governance is employed to ensure that the committee is and is seen to be objective and fair in its treatment of all applicants?
There is more than one red flag on the list and in the interests of transparency I am asking that all applications be made available to Cllrs.
As Cllrs it behoves us to do everything we can as watchdogs to ensure that the council is transparent, fair and just and is seen to be transparent, fair and just providing equal opportunity for success for all eligible applicants.
In light of the fact now evident, that an annual festival group, excellent and community based though it might be and however well intended it might be, is a beneficiary of the grants administered by a committee over which a member of that festival group presides, I would ask the CEO and the Director of Service to clarify if they have ANY concerns around the governance of this committee.”