Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Naas Town Council is out of Control

NAAS, 13 March 2002: OPINION by Brian Byrne. I have to be careful here. Writs are already being readied for launch between members of Naas Town Council, and I don’t particularly want to be the target of any myself.

But I have to comment on the behaviour of some of the council members at last night’s monthly meeting. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing my job. My comments relate to people in their capacity as members or officials of the council, and not to them in any private way.

First, I believe the chairman of the council, Willy Callaghan, should resign from the position after presiding over what can only be described as the most disgraceful scenes I have ever witnessed at a local authority meeting.

The chairman not only failed totally to control two separate verbally violent episodes, but he also failed to prevent two councillors - with whom he departs today on an official twinning trip to Omaha, Nebraska - from bullying, hassling, and eventually reducing to tears another councillor who ‘had the floor’. Cllr Mary Glennon was so upset that she was forced to leave the meeting.

If there was ever an occasion when the chairman of a meeting should have told two of the contributors to leave the proceedings, the performance of Cllrs Timmy Conway and Seamie Moore last night was it. But they continued to harangue Cllr Mary Glennon while she tried to take her right of reply as proposer of a motion related to the assessment of the various twinnings in which Naas is involved.

Verbal cut and thrust in political arenas is acceptable, sometimes necessary. It can be entertaining, it can even be productive. But there are boundaries of decency, and there is a right to free speech. On last night’s events, Messrs Moore and Conway apparently don’t entertain either of these. Nasty personalised comments and continuous interruptions seemed to be their preferred modus operandi last night.

You can read the transcript of the meeting elsewhere. You’ll find verbatim details of the episodes last night which, in the end, succeeded in turning Naas Town Council into the kind of vicious farce that could have gotten a week's run next door in the Moat Hall as the the most depressing kind of drama.

I should say here that I will be accused of ‘being brought in’ by Cllr Glennon to ‘undermine’ the trip to Omaha. Such was clearly intimated at the meeting. For your direct benefit, Cllr Conway, that is certainly not the case. I presume, and expect, that the trip will bring rewards of a commercial and cultural kind to Naas, and that as the instigator of the twinning you will get deserved credit for these. Linkings between different communities in an often savage world can only be for the good.

But you, and your colleague Cllr Moore, and the chairman, are in Omaha from later today representing your council and the people who elected you to a position of respect.

Last night’s performance - and one in a previous meeting, as I understand from published reports - undermined that respect badly. It brought the Council into disrepute. And that the worst offenders were a previous and future chairman of the Council only makes the matter even more horrendous.

One councillor of long standing tells me he feels he wants to write a letter to the people of Naas, ‘to apologise for the carryings-on in the chamber where the members are supposed to be doing work for the people’.

Even the Town Clerk, Declan Kirrane, was moved last night to interject that 'nobody around the table had any respect for the chair’. That the two who showed least respect last night should be accompanying the same chair as Grand Master of the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Omaha is irony indeed.

Naas Town Council seems, to this writer, to be out of control, careering crazily towards a bad end, probably in the courts. The townspeople of Naas who elected the Council don’t deserve that.

NOTE: The foregoing is a personal commentary on the events by Brian Byrne, a journalist who attended the meeting.

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