The annual Budget meeting of South Dublin County Council last Thursday ended with angry scenes and accusations in the chamber.
The Budget was proposed by the chief executive and supported by the ruling alliance of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, the Green Party and two Independents.
It includes a rent increase of €3 per week for all council tenant households, and the removal of the rent discount of €10 for those in receipt of the state pension in households with any other income except the state pension.
The ruling group were also accused of preventing Councillors from debating amendments in a move described as “circumventing democracy” as they brought forward a motion to vote on the Budget from section A to F.
This caused angry scenes in the chamber as councillors who had submitted amendments didn’t get a chance to propose them.
Some Councillors then walked out of the chamber in protest as the vote on the Budget was taking place.
Kellie Sweeney, People Before Profit candidate for the by-election in Dublin Mid-West slammed the decision by the ruling alliance.
“It seems that circumventing democracy has become national policy for Fine Gael.
“From the money message in the Dail, to rigging the budget debate in the council, this is a serious attack on democracy and a cynical way to dismiss the views not only of other political parties but of the public as well.”
Cllr Mark Ward, Sinn Fein candidate for the by-election in Dublin Mid-West accused the ruling alliance of “attacking the most vulnerable in society.”
“Sinn Fein were part of the ruling group in the last Council and we defended the weekly rents charged to Council tenants from constant attack by Fine Gael.
“We had robustly defended the €10 a week discount to weekly rents for all Old Age Pensioners.
“At today’s budget meeting, the ruling group voted to remove this in one foul swoop.”
Independent Councillor Liona O Toole was also scathing in her criticism of Thursday nights proceedings.
“There have been many difficult meetings and debates in the chambers over the years but never have they taken away my democratic right,” she said.
“They were they not capable off facing the difficult debates that would have taken place and took the easy way out.
“Either way they did something to me that no other ever has, I hope their leaders in Leinster House are very proud of their brave local representatives in South Dublin County Council.
“The stunt they pulled today was morally wrong.”
Councillor Ed O’Brien, leader of the Fianna Fail group on South Dublin County Council, however welcomed the passing of the budget saying “it is the start of a return to the provision of full and proper services for those living in the County.”
“Parties of the hard left must realise that protest is only valid if followed up by real action,” he said.
“Fianna Fáil has never shied away from taking hard decisions and will continue to do so in the interests of its constituents.
“I stand full square behind this budget and will continue to work with Council management to ensure that we continue to deliver and fair, balanced and productive budgets for the remainder of this Council term”