The Sinn Féin group on Waterford City and County Council have sought urgent talks with the Mayor of Waterford regarding their treatment at a recent meeting of the local authority. At one point Sinn Féin members withdrew from the chamber to protest being denied the opportunity to speak.
The leader of the Sinn Féin group Conor McGuinness said that his party colleagues were denied the opportunity to speak on certain debates, that they were interrupted when speaking, and prevented from raising issues that were then taken up by others. He also claimed that the meeting agenda was changed to push important issues back and allow an election take place earlier than planned so that a number of councillors could leave the meeting early.
“Sinn Féin councillors have a job to do as public representatives and our mandate is no less than anyone else’s. We will not accept a situation where we are denied an opportunity to speak in debates, to ask questions of officials, or to put forward proposals.
“Its quite clear that my party colleagues and I were singled out at the September meeting. We were ignored and overlooked when we indicated to speak, we were subject to frequent interruption from the Mayor, and in my own case, my questions to the director of services for housing and to the chief executive were allowed to go unanswered.
“The way in which the Management Report was pushed to the end of the agenda in order to have the election of deputy mayor take place earlier in the meeting had all the hallmarks of an old-fashioned political stroke.
“The Management Report allows councillors to highlight issues and to hold the senior management team to account. It’s arguably the most important item on the agenda, and each councillor is given just two minutes speaking time per month. This was moved to the end of the agenda to allow an election take place ahead of schedule so that two members of the majority pact could vote before heading off early for the afternoon.
“Councillors won’t always see eye to eye. Disagreement and debate are healthy. What isn’t healthy though is one individual or group dominating a meeting or seeking to silence those they disagree with. I have sought a meeting with the Mayor to raise our concerns and to work with him to find a way where we can all participate fully and fairly in meetings in the interests of our constituents.”