Donegal Mayor, Fine Gael Cllr. Noel McBride, said that if councillors repeat the disruptive behaviour that characterised the February council meeting, he will remove them from the chamber.
But the mayor said that would be a last resort. “That is the last thing I want to have to do,” he said, adding, “I want all 29 members working together for the citizens of Donegal.”
Party whips at a meeting the mayor called last Friday said they believed there was broad agreement on the importance of adhering to the council code of conduct and rules of order.
“People have made commitments that they will obey the rule set down in the code of conduct and I don’t have a problem with that,” said Labour Cllr. Frank McBrearty Jr. He also said he did not have an issue with a Fianna Fáil proposal to stream council meetings over the internet, though he said any legal implications must be explored.
Cllr. McBrearty said whips agreed “that meetings can’t go on in the way they have been gong on the last couple of years”, but added, “I’ve made it clear that if people want to attack me, they have to be prepared to be attacked back.”
Sinn Féin Cllr. Mick Quinn said he believed the whips attended the meeting to agree a code of conduct for regular meetings and other meetings that include councillors, such as electoral area and strategic policy committee meetings.
He called Friday’s meeting “a recognition that the behaviour at the last council meeting had a huge impact on the general public in Donegal”, saying that “was certainly not Donegal County Council’s finest hour, and we don’t ever want to see such behaviour in the chamber again”.
Independent Cllr. Ian McGarvey said agreement among whips represented councillors’ “respecting their commitments and the obligations.” He said councillors must work together “so that we can jointly progress the needs of Donegal on a very wide range of things”.
Fine Gael Cllr. Barry O’Neill described the meeting as amicable and honest. Referring to February, he said that whips had to let members know “it won’t be acceptable again for a meeting to go that way”.
Last week Fianna Fáil Cllr. Ciaran Brogan said his party would call for internet streaming of meetings, saying meetings had been “spiralling out of control”. He also questioned Mayor McBride’s impartiality at the February meeting, a suggestion the mayor rejected.
The mayor said the events of the February meeting had nothing to do with the mayor, but “with the behaviour of members that refused to respect the position of the chair”.
Cllr. Brogan said he believed most councillors would support introduction of a web cam, and said his party will keep pursuing the project.
In another matter, neither Cllr. Brogan nor Fine Gael Cllr. John Ryan would comment yesterday on a dispute they had at the February meeting that has led both to take legal advice.
On Highland Radio last week, Cllr. Ryan said he would be taking legal advice in relation to what he said were inferences from Cllr Brogan’s statement at the February council meeting that he had been threatened in the chamber.
Cllr. Brogan has not said who threatened him or what the threat entailed, but repeated yesterday that he was taking legal advice and would not comment further.