Republican News · Thursday 09 March 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Clonakilty UDC opens doors to public

After 100 years, meetings of Clonakilty UDC will at last be accessible to the public, after Sinn Féin Councillor Cionnaith Ó Súilleabháin successfully steered a motion to this effect through a recent meeting of the local authority. He was disappointed, however, that another motion calling on the council to display minutes and agendas of council meetings on the Town Hall notice board was defeated. This was the third time he had failed to get this motion passed since getting elected to Clonakilty UDC in 1994. Both motions were seconded by Independent councillor Anthony McDermott.

Proposing the first motion, Ó Súilleabháin said that proceedings in Leinster House were televised nightly, meetings of Cork County Council are open to the public as are meetings of many other town councils throughout the state. ``In this age of openness, transparency and public accountability, we in Clonakilty U.D.C. should have nothing to fear from letting the public into the chamber to see how our meetings are run, and how we come to make the decisions that we do. We should be accountable to the people that elect us. Currently, the only way that the people know what happens within this chamber is what is reported by the press, and very often there are no reporters present or they may only be able to report on one or two issues, even though 20 or 30 could be discussed. I believe that the general public have no idea of the work that is carried on here, and if they were allowed in to see it in progress, they would have a far greater appreciation of what we as elected representatives do. Outside of all that, this motion is about basic democracy - about letting those who vote for us know what we are doing in here.''

In calling for minutes and agendas of council meetings to be put on display and copies made available free of charge to anyone requesting them, Ó Súilleabháin repeated that this was all about accountability and proper representation of those who go out to vote in the nine councillors. He said: ``If the minutes and agendas were on display, people would know what has been raised, and what would be arising at a future council meeting. Then if there was something of particular interest to individuals, they could then make further inquiries to the offices here or to the councillors.

``The way the system is at present, decisions are usually made, signed, sealed and delivered before people are aware of them. Over the last six years since I was first elected, I have had many people approach me, questioning me about certain developments. By that stage, it is usually too late for those people to be able to influence any change. Many councils around the country already operate this display system, with Sligo Corporation having a glass case on the outside of their Town Hall.''

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