OPINION: Council in Carlow showing a disregard for public with December meeting schedule

Darren Hassett, editor of Carlow Live, issues apology to the site's readers and here's why...

Darren Hassett

Reporter:

Darren Hassett

Email:

news@carlowlive.ie

Carlow Carlow Carlow

Carlow County Council offices on the Athy Road

I'm about to reveal a fact that is in the interest of the wider public in Carlow.

The local authority has scheduled the 2019 December meetings of the Tullow Municipal District and the Carlow Municipal District for 4pm and 4.30pm respectively.

The meetings will be held on Thursday, December 19 at almost exactly the same time and 17.6 kilometres apart if you go by the Brownshill Dolmen route from Tullow to Carlow Town.

The Carlow MD meeting is held at the Town Hall in Carlow Town while the re-instated Tullow MD and its members meet at the Tullow Civic Offices. 

It's worth pointing out first that the MD meetings do not normally clash in this fashion. 

For example, last month, the Bagenalstown MD met on November 6 with the Tullow MD taking place on November 21 while the Carlow MD members met on November 28. Clearly, Christmas is playing havoc with this month's diary. 

But that does not mean that two meetings should clash, surely?

Well, in December 2019, two MD meetings in Carlow have been scheduled to take place simultaneously in two different towns and the Council's decision cannot go unchecked by the local media.  

So, here's the question, how is the scheduling conflict impacting on members of the public in Carlow?  

Firstly, there are only eleven Municipal District meetings in a year for most areas - with the exception of Bagenalstown MD - where members earlier this year made a decision to give a trial run to bimonthly meetings in 2020. 

On occasion, important decisions are made at these public forums.

These decisions can impact on every aspect of people's lives in Carlow, that's important and it's even more important that the media and the public can attend to document and scrutinise the debate and the councillors too as they make these resolutions.  

Local representatives are given the opportunity to hold the local authority and its officials to account - in a public forum.

The public nature of the meetings is paramount to informing the electorate as to the work their elected officials are doing for them, or the work they may not be doing. 

The meetings are the most fundamental mechanism for accountability in Local Government. 

Members can bring issues before the Council Executive at these meetings and put matters on the record in their efforts to get issues dealt with locally. 

There are full meetings of the Council each month but many issues are deferred and in some cases recently, motions have been deferred to be dealt with at MD level as they are too local for the full meetings of the local authority. 

This makes the MD meetings all the more important. 

The disregard the Council has shown members of the public in scheduling both these meetings at almost the exact same time is disparaging to say the least and the decision flies in the face of transparency in Local Government. 

If anyone in Carlow did want to attend both meetings, it would be a physical impossibility. 

The Council's unapologetic attitude to the diary clash also makes for uneasy reading. 

When it was pointed out to the Council that the meetings were clashing, in case it was an error, I was told that it is "a once off" and the Carlow MD would have been due to be held on December 26. 

Fair enough, that's not a realistic date but surely there was another date before Christmas or another time on Thursday, was that even considered before they lumped them together?

The Council official added that "Carlow has been scheduled for the 19th for some time now". 

But more worryingly, the official concluded by saying that "it is unfortunate but hopefully it is a once off". 

We should all be concerned about that "hopefully" part. 

It is crucial that the public are well-informed as an electorate.

It is equally important that Local Government in the Dolmen County and its councillors are held to account all year round and the media and the general public are afforded the opportunity to attend every Municipal District meeting. 

As a consequence of the scheduling conflict, I can only apologise to Carlow Live readers. 

For December 2019, there will be no reports on Carlow Live from the Tullow MD monthly meeting. 

Do you want to know how I decided which meeting I'd attend? 

I flipped a coin.