At a full Council meeting last November I tabled a motion requesting a breakdown of the grants that had been allocated by the 1916 Decade of Commemorations committee. As I clearly outlined on the day, I had submitted the motion on foot of a request by a friend whose group had applied for a grant to produce Laochra Gael, a play retelling the story of 1916 through the folk music and poetry of the time and which by any measure seemed to meet the criteria for a grant… but had been refused.
The breakdown of grants provided by the Council revealed at least one project with whom the Chair of the Committee and her family were personally involved . There is of course no bar to allocating grants to any group with whom a Cllr is involved…. once the potential conflict of interest has been declared by the Cllr.
Although the Cllr Chair did not answer the question on the day, she has admitted since that she did not declare any potential conflict of interest to the full committee, before the committee went ahead and signed off on the grants to be allocated. Nor did the Council officials on the committee some of whom were certainly aware of the link between the Chair and at least one of the projects they had shortlisted. You are on that committee Mayor- if you were not aware of the potential conflict of interest at the time of signing off on the grants you were certainly aware by the time the motion was discussed that day in the Council….as I had raised the issue at the FG group meeting immediately prior and you had dismissed it summarily.
As you are aware Mayor, declarations of conflicts of interest however small are legally required and for good reason. They protect both Cllrs and officials from accusations of bias and cosy cartels.
In her response to my motion the Cllr Chair spoke with righteous indignation for more than her permitted time, about her family name being attacked, about the festival itself and about her family’s history in the council . She was permitted, under your chair, to expound unchecked about where I lived or didn’t live and whether or not I had even visited the festival. No-one, no-one asked her to answer the question she had been asked.
In the days that followed, a number of the Council officials on the committee none of whom had informed the full committee of the link between the Chair and projects they had shortlisted, publicly supported the Chair.
Over the last week people have spoken about the impact of this motion on the Mayor and his family. I cannot communicate, in the short time available to me here, the impact on my family of the bias demonstrated by the Mayor on that day and the subsequent rush by officials from the committee to protect and support the Cllr who has since admitted her failure to declare any conflicts of interest.
Notwithstanding the serious issues outlined here, the trigger for submitting todays motion was the recent discovery of your actions in your role Mayor after that meeting.
3 days after that motion you rang the head of at least one of the political groupings calling her to a meeting and specifically referenced my motion regarding the 1916 grants. To put this in context I have yet to be contacted by any of my FG colleagues or informed of any transgression committed by me in raising the motion and in seeking answers to the issues the report to that motion had raised.
The meeting called by the Mayor for the following Monday was attended by the heads- or representatives from each political grouping in the Council and Council officials. The Chair of the Decade of Commemorations committee was present as you discussed my motion and was not asked to remove herself from the discussion. I on the other hand have never been given an opportunity to reply.
At that meeting you requested others to leave the decision to the FG group as to whether my motions would be seconded before they could be debated.
You were asking that FG and FG alone be permitted to decide which if any of my motions could be debated in future at a Council meeting.
Although I had heard a rumour at the time that such a meeting had happened not for a second did I think that the meeting could have been called by my own FG colleague.
The intent of the meeting you called goes against every principle of openness and transparency we as a party profess to support. Despite attempts by me previously to meet with you to discuss issues face to face, you chose instead to talk behind my back, behind closed doors with no opportunity afforded to me to defend myself. Instead of speaking directly to me you attempted to collude with others in an attempt to censor my motions in the council.
When a small number of people in local government have control of what information may or may not be discussed by public representatives at council meetings our local democracy is fatally injured.
Even were I to accept the explanation and I don’t that the meeting you called was about streamlining council meetings that is not a sufficient excuse for effectively censoring motions.
I am hugely disappointed Mayor that I had no other option but to submit this motions of no confidence. You refused an earlier invite to meet almost a year ago when I first suggested a chat over a coffee. The leader of the group was unable to bring us together or to resolve issues at that time. Over the last few weeks and even since I submitted the motion – you have continued to refuse to meet.
I had not intended this motion to be a personal attack on the Mayor who has by many accounts worked hard on behalf of his constituents. I felt I was left with no option to get answers directly from you , as I hope to do today, about your attempt to bring together Cllrs from all party’s in an attempt to silence your own FG colleague.
For those who wish to contirbute to this discussion today – I ask that you focus on the actions complained about. Do we as Cllrs as public representatives accept any attempt to censor motions and Cllrs however dressed up the attempt is in terms such as ” streamlining of Council meetings”.
The intent of my motion is to expose unacceptable and anti-democratic actions by the Mayor’s actions in dealing with the Decade of commemoration motion. It was never intended to be a personal attack.
For that reason I propose the following amendment to the original motion.
That this Council condemns the actions of the Mayor.”