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Councillor criticises move to reduce the number of council meetings as 'attack on democracy'

The meetings are designed for councillors to discuss concerns they have in their respective electoral areas.

Longford Council building
Longford Council building
Image: Facebook

LONGFORD COUNTY COUNCIL has decided to reduce the number of council meetings held each year in a move that has been criticised as “an attack on democracy”. 

While there is normally a council meeting held every month, the new schedule of meetings means there will be no monthly meeting in February, April or August. 

At the council’s AGM last week – the first meeting of all newly elected councillors – the new schedule was announced. 

Monthly meetings are designed for councillors to discuss concerns which they have in their respective electoral areas and to table motions which could affect change on those issues. 

A spokesperson for the council said: “The members, with the exception of councillor Mark Casey, agreed that the meeting schedule will be reviewed at the 2020 Annual Meeting of Longford County Council.

“They agreed to review the operation of this new schedule at their Annual Meeting in June 2020. 

“Provision is made for special meetings, if required, to discuss and address specific issues,” they added. 

Independent councillor Mark Casey, however, said the move was not discussed with all councillors before being introduced. 

“I was completely caught on the broadside,” he told TheJournal.ie

“There was an announcement at the end of the meeting… and that it was something that was agreed with council management. 

“It was agreed by all the Fine Gael councillors and one independent and some Fianna Fáil councillors but this is just lazy councillors who don’t want to go to the meetings.”

Casey said the reason for the change in schedule was not clear but that other jobs and commitments held by councillors had been mentioned. 

TheJournal.ie asked a council for a reason for the reduction in the number of meetings held each year but did not receive an answer. 

Casey said a number of councillors were “told about this behind closed doors” but he and other Independents were unaware of the decision. 

“This was proposed by the executive before and it was shot down by the corporate policy group of the council. 

“At a meeting we’re allowed three motions from each councillor and now that’s halved for the year. Time and time again local and national issues crop up that warrant us to have a debate but now we’re limited by the issues we can raise because of the cut in meetings. 

“Progress will be slowed way down and we won’t have much air time for submitting motions,” he added. 

“When you remove debate there’s a vacuum and that is what’s happening here – it’s a blatant attack on democracy, and I can see management’s point of view because now they don’t have to answer to us every month.”

Bad feeling

Casey said he has had local residents contact him over the decision.

“There’s a lot of people who I am walking into saying ‘what the hell is going on over there’ – there’s a lot of bad feeling about it.

“At my next meeting I, and other independent councillors, are tabling a motion to have this reversed and go back to monthly meetings. 

“I know they will say it was agreed at the AGM but I am opening up the debate on it anyway,” he said. 

Casey said he contacted management in the council and was advised because it was raised at the AGM the new schedule would go ahead. 

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