14th July 2002
Outrage over proposals to allow for excluding public and media from Sligo borough council meetings
Sinn Fein Cllr Arthur Gibbons has described the proposed new standing orders being put forward by Sligo Borough Councils Protocol committee for adoption at this Monday nights Council meeting as ``outrageous, undemocratic and an attempt to prevent public and media access to ALL meetings of the Council.''
Cllr Gibbons said: ``The Freemasons would be proud of these proposals. In the wake of the Ansbacher report and the various tribunals and other political and financial scandals we need more openness and transparency, not more secrecy and double-dealing behind closed doors. These proposals will give councillors the power to exclude the media and the public from council meetings whenever they wish. This is outrageous and undemocratic and will only increase public cynicism in politics in general and in Sligo Borough Council in particular. ``
``Sligo people thought they had seen the last of secret Council meetings behind closed doors when my party colleague Alderman Sean MacManus was successful during the term of the last Council. in having the Council adopt a policy of ALL council meetings being open to the media and public. Now the majority of councillors on this council show themselves to be just mouthpieces for private business interests and unelected Council officials. They view their role as councillors as being to rubber-stamp whatever the officials want implemented regardless of the views of the local communities they are meant to be representing. As such they have never been comfortable with the idea of the public and the media scrutinising the actions of themselves and of the officials.''
Cllr Gibbons also has strongly criticised attempts to limit the number of motions that can be tabled by any councillor in any one month or the number of motions he/she can have on the agenda at any one time.
He added: ``We are elected to serve the interests of local communities throughout Sligo and to raise issues affecting them. No limit can be placed on the number of items that may need to be raised at any one time. If this means increasing the length of council meetings to deal with issues, then so be it. That is what we are paid to do. However, this is really about Fianna Fail and Fine Gael attempting to prevent Councilors like myself from raising issues that may embarrass them or Council officials. They do not want issues being raised that they view as `unimportant', i.e issues that affect local communities as opposed to issues affecting developers and other private business and vested interests bankrolling these two parties.''
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