Cashel Urban District Council Meeting Open to Public
History was made in a quiet and unobtrusive way at the November meeting of the Cashel Urban District Council: for the time since the thirties the public were allowed in to listen to the proceedings.
Mind you, there was no way that they could participate. Four conditions had been laid down for public attendance: 1) the member who invited you to attend MUST accompany you to the Council Chamber; 2) you must be in time from the start of the meeting, 7.30; 3) you may not participate IN ANY WAY in the meeting; 4) you must leave the meeting after all the notices of motion have been dealt with.
According to the agreement, worked out by the councillors and the Co. Manager, only nine of the public could be invited, one to each member. The seating restrictions made it impossible to invite any more. One might have expected a great demand for the nine places available especially in view of the high turnout in Cashel at election time. But such was not the case. A mere three voters turned up to see how their elected representatives conduct themselves. They were John Fogarty, Seamus King and Conor O'Driscoll.
The Man Responsible
The man responsible for opening up the Council Chamber to the public is Cllr. Michael Browne (to distinguish him from the Cllr Martln Browne of the Joint County Libraries Committee). It was his motion at an earlier Council meeting that changed the existing practice of excluding the public. Nobody quite knows when the public were excluded; they used to be admitted in the past, but it is generally believed to have been some time in the thirties.
The public was in attendance for the discussion of motions and were excluded for correspondence. There was a wide variety of motions up for debate and the discussion was of a high level. One motion from Cllr. Thomas Wood that the Rock of Cashel ought to be restored was backed up by a well-researched speech. He argued that the restoration should happen over a period of ten to fifteen years, that the EEC would match pound for pound put up by the Dublin Government, that large corporations in the U.S. would be willing to get involved for tax reasons, that the materials used would be all native produced, that the job would be labour intensive and good for local employment and that the restored monument could be a museum which would add to the interest of the place and so attract even more people. The motion was passed.
A motion from Cllr Mattie Finnerty that the meeting condemn the government for its failure to pay the recent Arbitration Award was opposed by Cllr. Dick Wood, who argued that the money was simply not there. Cllr. Wood has the happy knack of being able to make the most cogent points without any notes to draw on. Cllr. Tom Wood had some reservations and when the matter came to a vote he abstained. The motion was passed by six votes to one with the one abstention. The absent Councillor was Labour member, Maureen O'Donoghue who was unable to attend.
Chairman, Dr. Sean McCarthy, found himself in sole opposition to another motion that practicing ministers and T.D.s not receive pensions: The general consensus was that it was a disgrace that ministers and T.D.s who were receiving salaries should also be receiving pensions. Cllr. McCarthy argued that a T.D. loses out by becoming a member of the Oireachtas and that it was only fair that they should be compensated for the loss.
There was a motion from Cllr. Michael Browne condemning extradition to Northern Ireland after the debacle of the McGlinchey affair. There was a general consensus among the members on this motion with the exception of the Fine Gael members who opposed it.
Cllr. Sean Hill, in a discussion on employment, expressed disappointment with the town's IDA factory, Rima Pharmaceuticals. He said that a lot of Cashel's young people were disheartened and disappointed at their failure to get jobs there. He requested that the Council be informed by Rima of their job creation programme and the potential for full-time, long-term employment.
Cllr William Mclnerney opposed the abandoment of Cashel's Turkey Markets. Acting Town Clerk told the members that it cost £280 to advertise the markets and only three of the thirty suppliers turned up last year. Cllr. Mclnerney said he would be very much in favour of continuing the markets. It would be a retrograde step to do away with them he said.
There was much more, all of a fairly high level with the exception of a few deviations into party bashing and the resurrection of the ghosts of the past. However, there was always the feeling of the debating society in which the outcome wasn't that important. Above all there was the belief that the amount of power wielded was very miniscule indeed. Having said that the whole experience was revealing and it is one that is open to all the citizens now.
All you have to do is get an invitation from your local friendly Councillor. If you are successful you can enjoy the evening in the comfort of the Council Chamber and find out how your representative is acquitting himself.
Post Advertiser, Nov. 1985, Vol 1, No. 9