Sinn Féin members, in particular, described the decision as a scandal, with Cllr Melissa Mullane claiming the council cannot maintain its housing stock or repair potholes.
Cllr Des O’Grady said he was alarmed to learn of the plans to send as many councillors as possible on two such junkets, especially as the council recently increased local property tax (LPT) by 5% to prop up its services.
Council chief executive Tim Lucey said the fact-finding missions were not organised by the council executive but rather by a handful of councillors who sit on an international and European affairs committee.
The committee is proposing the first trip will take place on November 15-17 and the second on dates yet to be arranged in January. The committee described them as “study trips”, aimed at educating councillors on European policies and laws. Councillors interested in joining the first trip have to submit, by November 7, their areas of interest after which a finalised itinerary will be determined.
Cllr O’Grady, SF leader in County Hall, said under no circumstances would any of his party be taking in the trips which he repeatedly insisted were “junkets”.
Mr Lucey stated that the funding for the trips would come from an annual budget earmarked for councillors’ training, and said the trips were not aided by the EU.
He added that there was “a genuine requirement” for councillors to be adequately briefed through lectures and briefings on a number of EU policies which would directly influence the way they carried out their work and represented the public.
Cllr Rachel McCarthy (SF), a member of the council’s international and European affairs committee, said she had been under the impression only a handful of members from the committee itself, would be making the trip to Brussels. The Bandon-based councillor said she was not in favour of such trips and would not be going.
Ms O’Grady said: “This is going to be seen by the public as a junket. Many councillors voted to increase the property tax to hard-pressed families and are now planning a junket for themselves.”
He said the money should have instead been spent on homelessness services in the county and if there was a need for information on EU policies it would be a lot cheaper to bring a couple of EU officials over to Cork to brief them in County Hall.