Wednesday, July 20, 2022

By Keith Bourke

Mayo County Council councillors voted down a proposal to live-stream the local authority’s monthly meetings.

Fine Gael’s Donna Sheridan had made the proposal and was vehemently backed by party councillor Ger Deere who had floated the idea in 2021.

Fianna Fáil’s Damian Ryan proffered a counter-proposal whereby members of the public can request a video link to the meeting, via Microsoft Teams. He said the council should put in place an information campaign to make the public aware of this option and the situation could be reviewed in six months to see if there is sufficient demand for the service.

A vote was taken on the matter, with Cllr Ryan’s proposal succeeding by 16 votes to 13. Mayo County Council had provided a report ahead of the meeting, outlining some of the pros and cons of live-streaming council meetings. Some of the misgivings included risk of defamation and hacking/editing of content. The council also contended that it could lead to ‘grandstanding’ among councillcors.

Cllr Sheridan had told the meeting that there is no reason that live-streaming should not take place.

“We are not a secret society. Let the public see,” she implored.

She said to use ‘grandstanding’ as an excuse not to live-stream meetings was ‘an insult to councillors.’

“It will help the public have a better understanding of what we do,” stated Cllr Deere.

“The reasons outlined by the council are not good enough,” he added.

Cllr Deere said the live-streaming of council meetings could increase engagement

. “Participation in politics begins with an understanding of how things operate,” he commented.

Independent councillor Mark Duffy said Mayo County Council needs to rehabilitate its image.

“Over the last few months Mayo County Council has been bruised by certain controversies. Can we afford not to do this?” asked Cllr Duffy.

His fellow Independent Richard Finn was of a different mindset. He pointed to the low take-up in Co Roscommon where the local authority rolled out the initiative. He said local councillors are not afforded the absolute privilege provided to TDs in the Dáil and expressed concern about potential legal fall-out. “I will not be voting for this,” he commented.

Following the meeting, Cllr Deere said he was ‘amazed’ that Cllr Sheridan’s proposal had failed. He said efforts would continue to put live-streaming of local authority meetings in place.

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