Council time 'wasted' by national issues
A Labour city councillor’s criticism of the time spent debating national issues in Cork City Council has been described as “hypocritical” by the opposition.
Labour’s John Kelleher expressed his frustration with the recent amount of national issues being debated with local topics of concern being pushed back on agendas or passed without debate. The motions at the most recent meeting included one on confidence in the Minister for Health, calls to reverse cuts, calls to release two former IRA bombers and exempting mortgage holders from new house charges.
“There has been a plethora of national motions in recent meetings,” said Mr Kelleher, who admitted that he had been guilty of placing national motions over the years.
“In reality what happens when one of these motions is passed? A letter is sent to the Minister’s office, the Minister doesn’t even read it and a secretary sends letter back acknowledging the receipt of the motion. The Department receives hundreds of them so what is the gain of sending them at all?”
No debate on local plan
Mr Kelleher pointed out that this week, the time spent on national motions meant that that there was no debate on the report on the Cork Area Strategic Plan (CASP), which the Director of Services, Pat Ledwidge, was present for. There was no debate either on a proposed variation to the city’s development plan on Model Farm Road which will convert residential and local services land into business and technology land. That report was deferred to the next meeting.
“The CASP is a long term strategy for the city planning and it’s important to have a good one in place,” said Mr Kelleher.
“The days of going to Dublin and asking €10 million are gone, you need to have a detailed report in place now and we didn’t even debate it.”
Mr Kelleher revealed that far more work is now being done in committee meetings where all councillors are contributing constructively and questions are being posed to officials, unlike the chamber.
“It’s embarrassing at times in there to talk on issues we have no control over. Leave that to Micheál Martin, Gerry Adams and Eamon Gilmore.”
The Labour frontbencher’s comments were described as “disingenuous” and “ hypocritical” by Sinn Féin councillor Thomas Gould, who insisted that his party’s priorities were on local issues.
“At the meeting this week there were a lot of motions held over from the previous meeting, along with the new motions,” said Mr Gould.
“A number of motions were very similar also, one of which was put by Cllr Kelleher’s party colleague Mick O’Connell (on HSE cuts) so it’s hypocritical to be giving out about us (Sinn Féin) putting down motions when members of his own party are doing the same.”
“Local issues are a priority for us in Sinn Féin but we are also reflecting what we meet and hear on the doorsteps. It’s our duty to raise these issues.”
Mr Gould criticised the time that was spent on the motions, claiming it was rushed through and that if more time had been afforded then some motions could have passed and that the planning variation in Bishopstown was pushed back by Fine Gael, not the opposition.
“We’re willing to come up with solutions but other parties and councillors need to take a look at themselves saying one thing and their party doing quite the other.”
It is understood the party whips are to meet on the issue ahead of the next meeting of Cork City Council on 8 October.