Sinn Féin has accused the larger political parties on Cork City Council of shafting long-serving councillors off certain committees during a tense council meeting last night.
Sinn Féin councillor Henry Cremin also said he plans to seek independent legal advice regarding the voting arrangement in place for certain nominations, where Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were supported by three Green Party councillors — Oliver Moran, Colette Finn, and Dan Boyle — and some Independents in most of the nominations.
Sinn Féin’s leader on the council, Thomas Gould, said that in the case of nominations to the board of Cork Opera House, the pact led to councillors who helped save the venue being voted off.
The comments came at the end of a long and at times chaotic first full meeting of the city council, during which dozens of votes were taken to ratify a raft of nominations to 46 committees.
The meeting also heard concerns about plans to hold fewer council meetings in public following extensive internal organisational and political restructuring in City Hall on the back of the city boundary extension.
The old functional committee meetings, which took place behind closed doors, have been replaced with new local electoral area-based meetings, where city officials insist councillors will have more time to discuss local issues relevant to those specific areas with officials.
However, the number of full council meetings which are open to the public has been halved — from two a month to just one.
The Green Party expressed concerns about the proposal last night and called for the establishment of the new committees to be halted until such time as the council’s standing orders — the rules on how meetings are run —were changed to allow public and media access to the LEA meetings.
Solidarity councillor Fiona Ryan said it was important that those LEA meetings were held in public and claimed that some officials have said and acted one way in a committee meeting, and another way at public meetings.
The leader of the Fine Gael group, Des Cahill, insisted that there are no secrets in City Hall.
Fianna Fáil councillor Ken O’Flynn said he was shocked by the suggestion, adding: “There is no attempt by previous council or management to muzzle elected members. We are here to serve the public, nobody is trying to hide anything.”
Fianna Fáil councillor Terry Shannon said the new structures and committees will need time to bed in and the issue of opening the LEA meetings to the public will be revisited in a few months.
Mr Boyle, who was elected chair of the council’s environment committee, said all councillors have a shared desire that openness and transparency will be a feature of all meetings.
Lord Mayor John Sheehan added that the city plans to write to the Government to seek extra representation on the Southern Regional Assembly given the increase in population arising out of the boundary extension.