Kildare County Council’s unanimous decision to broadcast the proceedings of council meetings has been welcomed by Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy as “a major step forward for transparency.”
Cllr McLoughlin Healy had proposed the original motion that led to this week’s landmark move by the elected representatives.
She said: “This is a major step forward for transparency in Kildare County Council today and I thank in particular councillors who spoke in favour of the motion.
“Well done and thank you for stepping up to the plate on behalf of our constituents.”
At its plenary meeting on June 24, the newly-elected Council reversed earlier decisions not to broadcast.
A proposal by Cllr McLoughlin Healy will go to the council procedures and policies committee to tease out the details, get quotes and tease out rules. A budget must also be agreed, and it is not known when broadcasting will start.
Cllr McLoughlin Healy proposed that “the council recognise the key role of public participation in local government as outlined by the 2013 report of the Working Group on Public Participation in Local Government, and also in the Council of Europe’s Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the decision making process, adopted in October 2009, and to which Ireland is a subscriber; the Council (Kildare County) therefore resolves to implement the webcasting of public meetings of the full council in order to meet the Code’s principle of participation, trust, accountability and transparency.”
Cllr McLoughlin Healy said she wanted no more prevarication on the issue.
Other local authorities had done webcasts and there was no problem, she indicated.
It was agreed to change the term “webcast” to “broadcast” in the proposal.
Cllr McLoughlin Healy said a previous cost estimate was €15,000 a year, but director of services, Sonya Kavanagh, said there was an initial capital cost of €75,000.
Cllr McLoughlin Healy said people want to be able to log in to hear discussions on some issues directly relevant to them.
She did not accept concerns over defamation or arguments that councillors would indulge in “grandstanding and spin” if theywere being televised.
Cllr Vincent P Martin (Green) supported the proposal, saying that hundreds tuned in for meetings of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown council. Cllr Martin, a barrister, said he did not think the “defamation” argue could be substantiated.
Cllr Naoise O’Cearuil (FF) said he supported the motion in theory from the get-go, but said the Council’s Policy and Procedures committee should tease out the details.
Cllr Patricia Ryan (Sinn Fein) and Cllr Bernard Caldwell also supported the proposal.
Cllr Ide Cussen (Ind) said she thought she was in the “wrong place” because everyone was so agreeable.
Municipal District meetings should also be included in the broadcasting proposal, it was suggested, and this was agreed.
Cllr Mark Stafford (FG), a solicitor, said the councillors had qualified privilege, not absolute privilege as in the Dáil.
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