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Castlebar council votes against freezing conference expenses

Castlebar council votes against freezing conference expenses

Edwin McGreal

Members of Castlebar Town Council voted by a margin of five votes to four against a proposal to not spend any money in the remaining months of the council on conferences for councillors.
All town councils are due to be abolished in 2014 under local government reforms.
There was heated debate on the matter, following the motion placed by Cllr Therese Ruane (Sinn Féin) that the figure allocated in the budget for conferences - €11,676 - instead be directed towards amenity grants for voluntary and sporting groups in the town.
“For our final sixteen or seventeen months as an authority can we not put on hold conference expenses and travel and put that money into amenity grants? We need to send out that message,” she said.
Her motion was seconded by Cllr Frank Durcan (Independent) and also supported by Cllr Noreen Heston (Fine Gael) and Cllr Ger Deere (Fine Gael). All three said they had not claimed any expenses from conferences in their time in politics.
However Mayor Brendan Henaghan said that the council ‘needed representation’ at the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland (AMAI) conferences and it ‘is very important that we’re represented there’, he said, adding that the AMAI conferences are ‘excellent’ for gaining knowledge.
Cllr Eugene McCormack (Fine Gael) described the motion as ‘a retrograde step’.
Town Manager Seamus Granahan said he felt it was important that councillors went to conferences so they could be as well-informed as possible about matters concerning local government.The motion fell with Cllrs Michael Kilcoyne (Independent), Harry Barrett (Labour), Blackie Gavin (Fianna Fáil) and Brendan Henaghan and Eugene McCormack (both Fine Gael) opposing it.
Figures on Castlebar Town Council’s website for 2011 expenses claimed show that Cllr Gavin claimed €2,142.36; Cllr McCormack claimed €1,347.49, Cllr Kilcoyne claimed €985.79, Cllr Barrett €471.67 and Cllr Henaghan €463.83. The four councillors who supported the motion had no claim for that year.

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