SF to seek legal advice after larger parties on Cork City Council accused of 'shafting' long-serving councillors

Sinn Féin has accused the larger political parties on Cork City Council of shafting long-serving councillors by removing them from certain committees during a lengthy and at times tense council meeting tonight.

SF Cllr Henry Cremin also said he plans to seek independent legal advice on how the voting arrangement in place for certain nominations, where FF and FG were supported by three Green Party Cllrs, Moran, Finn and Boyle, and some independents in most of the nominations.

SF party leader, Cllr Thomas Gould, said in the case of nominations to the board of Cork Opera House, the pact led to councillors who had 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 separate 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 (LEA)-based meetings, where city officials insist that councillors will have more time to discuss local issues relevant to those specific areas with officials.

But 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 tonight 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 Cllr 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.

But he leader of the Fine Gael group, Cllr Des Cahill, insisted that there are no secrets in City Hall. FF Cllr Ken O'Flynn said he was perturbed and shocked by the suggestion and said:

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.

FF Cllr Terry Shannon said the new council 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.

Green Cllr Dan Boyle, who was elected chair of the council's environment committee, said all councillors have a shared desire that openness and transparency will be feature of all meetings.

Lord Mayor Cllr John Sheehan also said 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.

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