THE monthly meeting of the Organisation, Procedure and Protocol (OPP) committee at Dun
Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council descended into chaos this week when opposition members walked out due to an attempt by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail to curtail the number of motions a councillor can submit a council meeting, along with a limit on speaking time.
Currently, the elected members can submit three motions a month, and can speak for three minutes on any motion tabled by any councillor.
According to Cllr Michael Merrigan (Ind), Cllr John Bailey (FG) and Cllr Gerry Horkan (FF) want to restrict each councillor to one motion a month, with a cumulative speaking time of four minutes in total for the duration of the three hour monthly meeting.
This movement to restrict councillors at the monthly council meetings was met with outrage by the opposition members, and as a result they walked out of then meeting.
Cllr Merrigan told The Gazette that the proposed plan caused “fury”at the meeting, and said that it “amounted to an attack on the constitutional and legislative rights, functions and duties of the opposition councillors to represent the views of their constituents”.
He added: “Clearly, neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fail have any real regard for local democracy and the rights of public representatives on Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.”
Cllr Merrigan said that he will be demanding Fury at ‘undemocratic’ plan to alter meetings the withdrawal of these proposals, pending legal advice.
Cllr Peter O’Brien (Lab) reiterated Cllr Merrigan’s comments, and said the move to restrict councillors was “profoundly undemocratic”.
He said: “Submitting motions on behalf of constituents is a vital part of a councillor’s
work and is an excellent example of local democracy in action.
“To greatly reduce this ability is a clear attempt by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail to limit our ability to do our work as public representatives.”
He added that local democracy was served best by having a robust system of accountability. Cllr O’Brien said that the Labour Party grouping would also be seeking legal advice.
Cllr Shane O’Brien (SF) described the plan as “devious and an absolute insult to all those who came out to vote in the 2014 local elections”.
In response, Cllr John Bailey said the OPP committee meetings had become “unworkable” since the council increased its elected members from 28 to 40 last year.
He said: “If all 40 councillors put down three motions each, that is 120 motions, and there is no way we can reach those motions in three hours with all the other orders of business, too.
“Over the past six to eight months, it has been impossible. We’re just not reaching the agenda.”
H e s a i d t h a t b y restricting the number of motions, it would “streamline the efficiency of the council”, and added that by reducing the speaking time “it would reduce the time of the meeting to give more people an opportunity to speak”.
Cllr Bailey said that the proposed plan was only at a recommendation stage, and that “nobody is steam rolling anybody”.
He remained firm on the proposed plans, and said: “There’s nothing in that agenda that prohibits or stops anybody from doing anything.
“It just shows a lack of knowledge of people who are on the [committee]. “It shows that they don’t know their standing orders, which are there to ensure the smooth running of a meeting.”