Aras an Chontae
Yet another Carrick-on-Shannon Municipal District meeting descended into an encounter riven with insults, accusations and arguments.
The six members of the Carrick district were in Aras an Chontae last Monday to discuss the 2017 programme of works for their area.
The first fifteen minutes of the meeting consisted of an argument about why they were even having the meeting.
Cllr Des Guckian provoked the ire of the other members when he accused the Senior Engineer, Roads, Shay O'Connor of adopting “an arrogant attitude” in relation to a remark he made at the previous meeting on the need for the second meeting.
Cllr Guckian was upset that his two roads that he had proposed and “put in on time,” the Derrycarne Road and his own Derrywillow Lane, were “ignored” in this year's scheme of works. “I'm not happy,” he said, describing it as “a pure disgrace.”
This drew a strong response from the other members. Cllr Sinead Guckian said she disagreed with his comments and said they were not acceptable.
Cllr Enda Stenson said he didn't think it was a fair remark to Shay O'Connor. “I don't think that remark is justified,” he said.
Mr O'Connor said he has never come before the Council with an attitude of arrogance.
He explained that the three year area programme is small and all the members know exactly what's in it, and that was the basis of his remark.
Mr O'Connor said Cllr Des Guckian is suggesting two roads be added to it, but all five other members could ask the same thing.
Cllr Guckian persisted by stating he didn't know why his two roads were left out.
Cathaoirleach, Cllr Finola Armstrong-McGuire said she took issue with him calling anyone in the room by derogatory terms and would not accept it.
Cllr Seadhna Logan said that in no way would he accept a staff member to be singled out in that manner.
Cllr Des Guckian said “what was done to me was unfair” and said he had the right and the entitlement and the obligation to the people who elected him to raise it.
Cllr Sean McGowan said he didn't want to be associated with any derogatory remarks and praised the staff who work tirelessly for Leitrim County Council.
Joseph Gilhooley, Director of Service, said it was discussed at length at the previous meeting and a decision was made to hold another meeting to further discuss the matter.
Cllr Des Guckian reacted by saying, “The administration of this was sloppy at the beginning and it's been done casually and sloppily.” Cllr Guckian added that councillors, who make the decisions, should “get more respect.”
Cllr Sinead Guckian said she made the proposal to have a second meeting and accused her colleague of “talking nonsense.” She said there was an attempt being made to show that something untrustworthy was happening and that was not the case.
She said Cllr Guckian had made “a terrible statement. It was horrific and now there's an allegation of sloppy work by the staff. This is wasting everyone's time.”
Mr Gilhooley explained that the allocations are only announced in late January every year and the schedule of the February meeting of Carrick Municipal District may have to be looked at in future to allow members more time to study the proposals. “It couldn't have been done any sooner,” he said.
Moving on, Cllr Sinead Guckian expressed her disappointment that there are no Local Improvement Schemes or Community Involvement Schemes this year and she lamented the cuts to their budget since 2011.
She also raised her concern at the reduced allocation to the Carrick-on-Shannon Municipal District which she said has reduced from 29% to 28% and she asked why the percentages were changed between the municipal districts. She said Carrick is now nearly €0.5m behind Manorhamilton and €400,000 behind Ballinamore.
Mr Gilhooley explained that a workshop was held in early 2016 where members were informed of the standard index for the proportional division of the main grants the Council receives.
The breakdown is 28% Carrick, 35% Ballinamore and 37% Manorhamilton.
Cllr Guckian said Carrick used to be 29%.
Mr O'Connor explained how they come to their conclusions using road lengths, population, urban areas, etc. He said it was agreed by all members at that workshop.
Cllr Des Guckian queried whether a workshop had the authority of a meeting.
He said every elected member was “found wanting” and had “stood back and allowed our roads allocation to be halved since 2011. It's a disgrace.”
He said each councillor should get a “proper allocation of roads” and he again demanded that his two roads be included. “Something very, very strange is happening in this county,” he said.
In reply to Cllr Guckian, Cllr Armstrong-McGuire stated, “My roads are all the roads in the municipal district.”
Cllr McGowan said no funding for LIS and CIS schemes is “very disappointing, not acceptable and not good enough.”
Cllr Stenson said they need a separate allocation for LIS schemes and they should contact the Department for that. He said it was always a wonderful scheme in Leitrim and a lot of people availed of it.
Cllr Sinead Guckian said she disagreed with the comment that Carrick area members agreed to a 1% reduction in funding.
Mr Gilhooley said that in 2015 the allocation was 29% but different criteria was introduced in 2016 and that brought the Carrick funding back to 28% and that was what was being presented for 2017.
Cllr Des Guckian said there was no voting on the day and members “had been sold a pup.”
Mr Gilhooley said the proportional division of funding is an executive function and does not require a vote.
Cllr Sinead Guckian proposed the members ask the Chief Executive to come to the next Municipal District meeting to explain how funding is allocated.
Cllr McGowan said they were “going round in circles” as Ballinamore and Manorhamilton have already adopted their programmes. He said 1% is significant but they could not change anything for this year.
Cllr McGowan proposed they write to Minister Shane Ross and tell him they want a proper allocation of funding for all roads in the county. This was seconded by Cllr Stenson.
Cllr Sinead Guckian pointed out there has been a 20% increase in taxation on motorists but no increase in roads funding.
Cllr Stenson said he hoped that in the next five years the council would have enough funding to do 5% of the roads annually, as required, and said the county's roads are “as good as any of our neighbouring counties.”
It was proposed by Cllr Armstrong-McGuire that the plan be adopted and this was seconded by Cllr McGowan “with a heavy heart.”
Cllr Des Guckian said that “without the two roads I mentioned, I'm very much against it. It's just a farce really.”