'We don't want to air our dirty linen in public,' war at meeting over no hard copy of agenda

One councillor was furious over how it was handled

Carlow Carlow Carlow

Carlow County Council offices on the Athy Road

There was uproar at the full meeting of Carlow County Council in Sepetember over members being given a digital copy of the meeting agenda and no hard copy. 

Cllr Will Paton raised the issue with the Council executive and said "at no stage prior to the meeting did we get an email about it nor were we consulted, agreement should have been got with members". 

"We have put the cart before the horse. It is completely and utterly wrong what has happened. It is disingenuous and insulting. We have no hard copies of the meeting agenda. I am computer literate, not all of my colleagues are. 

"I like to make notes and the meeting won't be as productive," Cllr Paton said. 

He added that he was in favour of the roll-out of the digital copies of the agenda to reduce the Council's paper usage but took issue with how it was done and without the proper training or software. 

Cathaoirleach of Carlow County Council, Cllr John Pender, said there would be an in-committee meeting [where members of the public or the media are not present] after the full meeting and "we don't want to air our dirty linen in public". 

He described it as a "genuine attempt" by the Council's executive to make better decisions in the battle against climate change. 

Cllr Charlie Murphy said he has no broadband coverage and he would have had "to go up the road in the dark" to see the agenda.

He also said he needed to be able to mark the agenda and could not do so. 

Members who made an issue of the digital agenda were then given a hard copy by the Council's executive at the meeting. 

Cllr Paton said: "I'm insulted that policy has been taken away from members of the Council. I would like to have it electronically, but it's not right [how it was done]."

Senior Executive Officer, Eamonn Brophy, said there was a decision made by members and the executive to move to a paperless agenda. 

The system was to be rolled-out at the November meeting and there would be training in the interim for members on the software system used to view the digital agenda and training on how members could use the system and mark the agenda.

The Council then decided to do a trial run by just sending out the digital agenda in advance of the system being rolled out next month and members could use their tablets or laptops to view it. 

Mr Brophy said it "wasn't my intention to insult anyone or cause any offence, I apologise, it honestly wasn't my intention" as members will proceed now with training. 

"I wasn't aware that some members had no broadband. We are not the first to try a system like this, we are almost the last," he added. 

Cllr Michael Doran said he supported the roll-out of the new system as "100s of pages of paper are just thrown in the bin" and it's "not a lot to ask to get a bit savvy with a computer". 

Cllr Paton said: "The issue is how the executive have attempted to usurp us and have ridden roughshod over us. We were all given tablets before, don't come near me with a tablet. They lasted three years and they're useless." 

Cllr John Cassin said he has a problem with dyslexia and it was agreed that certain members would be given "hard copies in exceptional circumstances". 

On this matter, Mr Brophy said that he hadn't been in the Council Offices the week before the full meeting and if members "didn't get what I promised then I apologise". 

Cllr Paton spoke at the end of the meeting again on the matter and said he had "nothing but the height of respect" for Mr Brophy and had gone "very hard" on the Council executive at the start of the meeting. 

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