A councillor is to make a formal complaint after a senior official threw a journalist out of a council meeting in Galway.
Green Party councillor Niall O’Brolchain said he was horrified at the treatment of the reporter, who was attending a meeting on the future of transport in the city.
“In my view this was a totally unacceptable action. It is a very serious matter because journalists provide a vital service in reporting the goings on at local government level to the public,” he said.
The reporter, Jo Lavelle of the Galway Independent, was attending the Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) on transport at County Hall last Thursday when she was asked to leave by a senior council official.
However, under the Local Government Act 2001, the media and the public can only be excluded in exceptional circumstances. A majority of councillors can vote to hold part of the meeting in committee but only when this is not contrary to the public interest.
Mr O’Brolchain said Ms Lavelle had been thrown out of the joint City and County Council SPC meeting without any such vote taking place.
“It is my understanding that this is contrary to the Local Government Act 2001 and I shall be making a formal complaint to the Galway County Manager and asking him to take appropriate action,” he said.
The practice of excluding journalists was once commonplace in county and city councils and was often employed when controversial rezoning decisions were being made.
But Mr O’Brolchain said the SPC meeting on transport issues had been about the need for quality bus corridors, park and ride facilities and rail links in Galway and had not been at all controversial.
“It was looking for solutions from the members and it was an excellent meeting. We found there was a lot of common ground among members and a lot of things put out there. All good clean stuff, there was nothing to hide.”
He said he believed that an apology to Ms Lavelle and a ‘rap over the knuckles’ for the senior official concerned would be sufficient to resolve the problem.
Jo Lavelle, who is an experienced reporter of local politics in Galway, said she did not wish to comment on the issue.
Galway City Council was unavailable for comment.