*Photograph: Eamon Ward
A North Clare councillor has cautioned that any potential change to the times of local government meetings must not “disenfranchise” prospective representatives from stepping forward.
Monthly meetings of Clare County Council are held in the late afternoon while the times for Municipal District and Strategic Policy Committee gatherings vary for the different groupings.
Nineteen councillors signed a proposal seeking that the standing orders committee review the “time schedule for meetings taking all circumstances into consideration with a view to having morning meetings”.
Members of the Executive of the local authority were said to be “agreeable” to implementing such a change. “A meeting of the Standing Orders Committee will be convened in January to consider this matter and a recommendation can then be submitted to the Council for approval,” acting senior executive officer with corporate services, Ann Reynolds outlined.
Cllr Gabriel Keating (FG) who was the first name to appear on the proposal welcomed the reply and admitted that he was looking forward to the outcome from the meeting in January.
As he seconded the motion, Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) stated, “It is important that we are sure all our Council members will be able to attend a morning meeting, we don’t want to disenfranchise anybody. When it comes to standing for Council, a full-time teacher or farmer may not be able to attend”. He suggested that if approved, the decision would last only for the duration of this Council term.
Along with Keating and Killeen, other names to endorse the proposal included Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF), Cllr Pat McMahon (FF), Cllr Pat Burke (FG), Cllr Michael Begley (IND), Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG), Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF), Cllr PJ Kelly (FF), Cllr PJ Ryan (IND), Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND), Cllr John Crowe (FG), Cllr Pat Daly (FF), Cllr Paul Murphy (FG), Cllr Mark Nestor (FF), Cllr Joe Cooney (FG), Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF), Cllr Bill Chambers (FF) and Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF).
Opposition to the proposal was voiced by Cllr Ian Lynch (IND). “Members of the public often attend our meetings. If we changed to having meetings in the morning, they would be less likely to attend”.
Barefield representative, Cllr Ann Norton (IND) who did not co-sign the proposal revealed that she saw both sides of the argument. “We have to be very conscious of the fact that not every councillor is not working full-time, it is something we need to address, rather than us having a meeting inside the likes of the Chamber, it is something we need to sit down and discuss together as a group so that we will get different opinions and reasoning from people”.
She continued, “As a county councillor I don’t think it was ever meant to be a full-time job even though there is a huge amount of hours put into the job, the public feel we work 24/7, it is something that we need to be very clear about”.
Pat Dowling, Chief Executive of the Council told elected members that it was their decision and their requirement would be serviced. “The brain is much more active in first half of the day,” he quipped.