Independent councillor for Ardee and Mid-Louth Jim Tenanty believes local councillors have not been given the proper platform to help tackle the effects of Covid-19 in Louth.
He also stated that councillors and local authority staff should be tested for Covid-19 before they attend meetings. Dolores Minogue refuted suggestions made at the meeting that local confidence in councillors had been eroded after the Clifden ‘GolfGate’ scandal.
Speaking at Thursday’s Ardee Municipal District September meeting held in Ardee Courthouse for the purposes of social distancing, the councillor said there was an absence of clarity for county councillors and bemoaned the fact that information was made available to them through the media and not through the local authority.
“Politicians have been getting a bad name in relation to certain functions. We have to be community minded,” he said. “[There is an] absence of clarity in relation to Covid-19 as county councillors. The information we are getting is not from where we should be getting it. It’s coming from the media.
“Being a politician, you get the odd thing thrown at you – “Were you playing golf at the weekend?”, that kind of thing. I’m getting it in the neck from certain sectors. I as a councillor am trying to represent the people. We should be out there trying to help solve this or ease the depth of grievance related to Covid.”
Cllr Tenanty, who chair the Joint Policing Committee in the district, stated that he felt the JPC – a body that brings together the local authority, An Garda Siochana and members of the public – should have taken a more proactive role in countywide efforts to provides services and supports related to Covid-19.
“The JPC have not been involved in any information given to the public. We have no outlet to do what we think we need to do,” he said. Joint Policing Committee meetings, including a set of public meetings scheduled for September, were postponed on Thursday.
Joe McGuinness, Director of Services, told the meeting that the local authority were meeting with the HSE and An Garda Siochana on a fortnightly basis to deal with matters as they arise, including enforcement and access to facilities.
“I thought it was scandalous what happened in Clifden. People constantly bring the matter up and are very upset about it,” Dunleer based councillor Hugh Conlon said.
“Children ran riot on the streets of Killarney at the weekend. It is absolutely scandalous. Young people have no respect for us because of the actions of a few. We’re back to the old days.”
Fine Gael councillor Minogue responded angrily to Cllr Conlon’s claim that people in the constituency had no respect for the elected representatives here.
“Clifden is nothing to do with Ardee and Mid-Louth. What happened in Killarney is nothing to do with Ardee and Mid-Louth. It’s absolutely nothing to do with our young people,” she said.
“As a councillor, you get stick every day. You have to take it. We weren’t there. The people of Ardee and Mid-Louth know we’re good, hard-working, decent councillors.”
“We did all get a lot of stick. It’s not an Ireland I recognise or represent,” Fianna Fáil councillor and Cathaoirleach of the Ardee Municipal District John Sheridan said. He also defended recent criticism of his party and Taoiseach Micheal Martin, saying that decisions and communications made now are tougher than those made six months ago.
“In the early part of Covid when we were locking down, it was very easy to have a once size fits all message but while you’re reopening, it’s very hard to create a message in a clear way. There’s going to be contradictions.”
Cllr Tenanty also queried why councillors, the council executive and staff attending meetings were not tested for Covid-19. Director of Services said all activities were reviewed by health and safety officers. He told the meeting that with rules in place – such as social distancing – it was deemed not necessary to test councillors.