Waterford City and County Council was discussing a proposal to live-stream its meetings over the internet when it emerged that the actual discussion was being live-streamed.
The motion was tabled by Independent Cllr Mary Roche. She asked that the council “broadcast meetings live on the internet and investigate how best to achieve this, including live streaming on Facebook, which could be achieved at minimal cost”.
Cllr Roche noted that a similar motion had been adopted — though not enacted — at the former Waterford City Council prior to its amalgamation with the County Council.
The councillor said Waterford Council already allowed their meeting to be recorded from the public gallery; while several other jurisdictions (such as Fingal and Dublin City Council) already live stream meetings.
Amidst general support for the motion, Fianna Fáil Cllr Michael J O’Ryan asked if councillors might enjoy ‘privilege’ against libel, such as applies to Dáil Éireann.
He was informed that such privilege does not and, under current legislation, could not apply to council meetings.
Sinn Féin Cllr Pat Fitzgerald said the public “have a right to know what we say and how we behave”.
And his party colleague Cllr John Hearne said the public “pay our wages and should be allowed see what we are at”.
Fianna Fáil Cllr Eddie Mulligan supported the motion but sought clarification on how the process would function, the implications for data protection, whether councillors themselves would be allowed to livestream, tweet, etc, and to what degree it might extend to the public gallery.
There was a brief diversion when Cllr Mulligan pointed out that Sinn Féin Cllr Declan Clune was actually live streaming as they spoke.
Cllr Clune said he was unaware that he had breached standing orders by doing so and deleted the footage.
Cllr Clune later claimed he had live streamed “as an experiment more than anything” from when the motion arose.
However, Fianna Fáil Cllr, Eamon Quinlan, said another councillor’s privacy had been violated as his laptop had been visible in the clip. Fine Gael Cllr Lola O’Sullivan said the streaming had been “unacceptable” and suggested the entire live streaming issue be “referred to the whips”.
Cllr Mulligan suggested that the motion be amended to defer it to the council’s Corporate Policy Group for further consideration. Cllr Roche consented and the amendment was carried by a large majority.
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