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Council to return to Áras in March

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LYING VACANT Mayo County Council have not used Áras and Chontae in Castlebar for a full council meeting since March 2020. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Anton McNulty

THE Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council hopes that monthly meetings of the authority will return to Áras an Chontae in Castlebar soon following the lifting of social distancing restrictions.
Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, monthly meetings of Mayo County Council were moved out of Áras an Chontae in Castlebar due the social distancing rules. Since then, the majority of meetings have taken place online or in the TF Royal Theatre, where there is more space than the council chamber.
Last week, the Dáil sat for the first time since the lifting of restrictions, with TDs once again allowed to sit beside each other.
The February meeting of Mayo County Council is scheduled to take place on Monday, February 14 and Cathaoirleach, Cllr Michael Smyth, told The Mayo News that despite the lifting of social distancing rules, he believes this meeting will take place in the TF.
“It has not been confirmed yet but I think the intention is to have a meeting in person in the TF. Eventually we will go back there [Áras an Chontae] very soon. That is the plan but the IT system has to be upgraded in it and other bits and pieces. For now we will be staying in the TF but possibly the March meeting we will be back in Áras an Chontae,” he said.
The January meeting of the Council took place virtually due to the increase in cases due to the Omicron variant. Cllr Smyth, who has been Cathaoirleach since July, said that meetings in the TF have worked well and meetings in person is always the preferred option.
“The online meetings are not as good as in person, there is no doubt that in person meetings are best at dealing with other statutory obligations we have.
“Anyone who has any issues attending can also access the meeting online and there should not be any issues there. The legislation is still there to have meetings remotely and it is reasonable if someone cannot attend they will be access to attend remotely,” he said.
It was confirmed at yesterday’s January meeting of the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District that the February meeting will take place in person in the Westport Civic Offices. Since March 2020 all of these meetings have taken place online or in Áras an Chontae in Castlebar to allow for social distancing. It was confirmed that from next month the monthly meetings will be in Westport or at a Belmullet venue.