*Carmel Kirby, Kevin Corrigan & Pat Dowling. 

ENNIS 2040 DAC’s Chief Operating Officer will be questioned by county councillors next week but elected members had to battle to secure such a briefing with the Council Chief Executive accused of “chasing Ministers” and one elected member storming out of the Chamber in protest.

Kevin Corrigan, COO of Ennis 2040 DAC was due to appear before Monday’s meeting of Clare County Council but this briefing was cancelled by the Council Chief Executive Pat Dowling due to the visit of Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys (FG) to the county.

This decision outraged some councillors who vented their fury at Monday’s meeting after the item which had been originally included on the agenda was removed from the clár.

When pointing out this removal Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) criticised the county’s first citizen, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG). He said the decision to hold the briefing had been agreed at the April meeting following a proposal by Cllr Tom O’Callaghan (FF). “It is your duty to uphold the constitution of the Council but it (briefing) did not happen”. He asked the top table, “What have ye to hide, I know Ennis 2040 wasn’t properly constituted, it was never approved, the addition of two members was approved but the formation of DAC was never formally approved”.

Officials were pressed by Cllr Flynn to set a date for the reconvened briefing, “the meeting cannot go ahead until a date is made, we ain’t hanging around until after the election”.

Cathaoirleach of the Council, Cooney responded, “we will decide when” to which Cllr Flynn hit back, “you need to do that now”. Cooney said it would be dealt with under any other business to which the Shannon representative responded that AOB was also not listed on the agenda.

Moves to cancel the briefing were “unconstitutional,” Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) outlined. “We decided at a statutory meeting that this presentation would happen. It was on the Corporate Policy Group agenda that was approved”.

“Events outside our control” led to its cancellation, Cllr Cooney said with Cllr Johnny Flynn hitting back, “Chasing the Minister around the county is of no interest to me” and “who withdrew it and on what basis, in my view it is illegal”.

Addressing the meeting, Dowling admitted, “On this occasion I took the decision in my role as Chief Executive given a clash of venues and I beg to differ councillor about chasing a Minister around the county, that Minister and her Department has netted this county over €50m in grant aid. I accept full responsibility in my role as Chief Exec, it was not possible for the Cathaoirleach or I to be present”.

He continued, “It was within my power to set up the DAC so it was important I was there”. Dowling commented, “I am aware that some councillors are more unhappy than others, I always accept the majority will of the Chamber”. Minister Humphreys’ visit was “a very positive day for Co Clare, it is a day we should be proud of” and added, “I’m happy to stay chasing Ministers so long as it is benefitting the county”.

Suggestions that matters proceed in the meeting were stopped by Cllr Gerry Flynn who insisted, “there’s no moving on”.

Actions of Council management left Cllr O’Callaghan “genuinely shocked and disappointed”. He explained, “I am simply asking for questions to be answered, there is a genuine stress and concern out there, I am looking for transparency and for answers, we’re not here to waste anybody’s time”. There are “genuine conerns” in Ennis, he added which prompted Cllr Cooney to say, “we all have concern for our area and our county”.

Statutory items “needs to be on the agenda,” Cllr Johnny Flynn reiterated while his namesake Cllr Gerry Flynn told the Cathaoirleach “you’re out of order”. Cllr Cooney responded, “It isn’t part of a briefing today, a new date is being looked for”. Cllr Johnny Flynn replied, “I’m absolutely disgusted, you’re out of order” while Cllr Gerry Flynn demanded, “we need a decision now”.

Dowling told the Flynns, “the agreement was a presentation would be made to the members”. He was interrupted by Cllr Gerry Flynn who remarked that the presentation would be “in public” and he added, “the Chief Executive is making it up as he goes along”.

After asking to be allowed to speak without interruption, the Chief Executive assured councillors, “I’d never seek to undermine anyone’s function”. He continued, “What happened today is common, we regularly have to postpone and cancel presentations”. An agreement to hold the briefing will be fulfilled, “It is not on the clár, it was agreed it would happen in advance. I apologise”.

“You removed it,” Cllr Gerry Flynn retorted. “I am happy to reconvene to discuss this as agreed by all elected members and not just a few,” the Chief Executive stated. “The agenda has been altered,” maintained Cllr Johnny Flynn.

Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) pointed out that his request for a briefing from the HSE was also postponed as a result of the Ministerial visit, “things happen and things change” but he was sharply reminded by Cllr Gerry Flynn that he sought an “in-camera” briefing which would preclude the attendance of the public and the media with Cllr Johnny Flynn pointing out “it has nothing to do with the HSE”.

“We’ll decide a date,” Cllr Cooney told the meeting and Cllr Gerry Flynn shouted from the floor “do it now”. Cllr Johnny Flynn then stormed out of the Chamber in protest at the actions of the top table.

Agreement was then reached to schedule the briefing for 3pm on Monday but this was later altered with 2pm on Wednesday then set as the slot for the Ennis 2040 briefing.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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