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‘Shame on every single one of yee’ – Laois Councillor fumes as live streaming proposal rejected

Aisling Moran Laois County Council

A proposal to live stream meetings to the public from Laois County Council has been rejected.

The idea was first mooted by former Fine Gael Councillor Aisling Moran almost two years ago.

Several debates took place and eventually a sub-committee was put together to examine the positives and negatives to carrying it out.

This committee, made up of Councillors and chaired by Independent Councillor Ollie Clooney, produced a report at Monday’s meeting.

While they were unable to agree a recommendation, they spoke to other Councils who are currently live streaming.

Cllr Clooney said: “We couldn’t agree on a recommendation so it is up to the members here today to decide.

“I believe that it is costly and the numbers who will actually view it are low. I would not be enthusiastic about it.”

Cllr Moran said: “I think that this would be a positive step forward for Laois.

“While people can attend our monthly meetings in the public gallery, it is not equal access.

“Our meetings are on a work day and start at 11am so unless you are in Portlaoise and not working on that day, you cannot attend.

“By live streaming meetings, we could engage with people and show them what we do.

“A vote for live streaming is a vote for progress. To stand still is to move backwards.”

Sinn Fein Councillors Aidan Mullins and Caroline Dwane Stanley plus Labour’s Marie Tuohy supported Cllr Moran’s plea.

Cllr Dwane-Stanley said: “In other councils, there is an archive function where people can look back at old discussions.

“It could be useful for Councillors and staff to look back on decisions or statements made.

“It could also be used to share the clips on social media to engage people with local politics.”

Cllr Tuohy said: “You can live stream a funeral or a mass so why not a council meeting?”

Cllr John Joe Fennelly was against the proposal – citing the low numbers viewing in other areas.

He said: “In two Councils with populations of over 100,000, just 105 and 300 people logged in. That is very low so it is a no from me.”

Cllr PJ Kelly feared that live streaming would make the local press, who attend the meetings and report on them, redundant.

While Cllr Paschal McEvoy, who was also against the idea, felt it was an issue that the new Council, due to be elected next summer, should address.

In terms of cost, Director of Services Donal Brennan said it was expected that live streaming would cost around €25,000 per year but that it would have to go to tender.

Following a discussion, a vote took place and it was defeated by 12 votes to six.

Willie Aird, Conor Bergin, Paddy Bracken, Thomasina Connell, John Joe Fennelly, Catherine Fitzgerald, Padraig Fleming, John King, Seamus McDonald, Paschal McEvoy and PJ Kelly voted against.

Ben Brennan, Caroline Dwane-Stanley, James Kelly, Aislin Moran, Aidan Mullins and Marie Tuohy voted for while Ollie Clooney, chair of the sub-committee, abstained.

Following the vote, Cllr Moran said: “Shame on every single one of yee.

“Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are against transparency. That is why I am glad I left Fine Gael.”

This provoked an angry response from the Fianna Fail and Fine Gael Councillors with Cllr Paddy Bracken and Cllr Moran exchanging words before the meeting eventually moved on.

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.