Sinn Féin Stand their Ground Despite Threat of Removal from Office
Sinn Féin Group leader in Louth County Council, Tomás Sharkey said:
“This Thursday Louth County Council is being recalled in another effort to have a faulty budget adopted. Sinn Féin will maintain our opposition to it.
“Louth County Council finances are in disarray. There is an incomplete register of assets. Projected expenditure on miscellaneous items is unsatisfactory. Tenants are being put into arrears. Businesses are unsupported. There is a lack of innovation and entrepreneurship in the document.
Council Group Leader Tomás Sharkey
“The lack of fresh thinking has become culture in the organisation. Culture eats strategy. The structures have failed to learn from a house purchase scandal, write off of 45% outstanding rates, the Narrow Water Bridge debacle, rent collection crisis and waste mismanagement.
“New leadership is needed to fix Louth.
“Sinn Féin is the largest party in Louth Council chamber. We hold 10 of the 29 seats. We take this responsibility seriously. We have been working hard to represent all the people of Louth.
“Sinn Féin does not have confidence in the estimates being proposed on Thursday. We do not have confidence in the way the Council is being managed.
“If and when the budget is defeated Minister Murphy may remove all 29 Councillors from office. He would be mistaken. Councillors have been drawing attention to the problems in Louth for years. The minister should not sack the messengers when the problem remains.
“We want to be clear. We want new leadership and accountability in the County Council. We intend to ask for a new Chief Executive.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Antóin Watters has called on the Chief Executive of Louth County Council to push ahead with the Narrow Water Bridge project given the amount of money that has been spent on consultants.
Reports are that €1.3 million was paid out to consultants before the project was shelved and the offer of EU funding was withdrawn due to it not being drawn down in time.
Antóin Watters, Councillor for the Dundalk-Carlingford/Omeath area said “There are questions that need to be addressed. Councillors were not fully informed as to the cost of consultants or money paid out. On top of the €1.3 million paid to consultants, there was a further €304,000 paid to ‘the other side’ when a dispute arose. What was the nature of this dispute and why did it cost so much?
Cllr Watters continued “we had hoped to see this bridge from Omeath to Warrenpoint completed in 2015 and it would have been a tremendous boost for tourism in the area, but here we are in 2017, the project has been shelved and we are nearly €2million in the red and a shovel hasn’t even turned the first sod.”
“Given that so much has already been spent on the project and given the importance of the bridge to the tourism of the Cooley peninsula, I, and my party are calling on Louth County Council to progress with it and not just write it off along with the €2million.”
Following Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne’s queries last month at both the Municipal District and Louth County Council meetings, she noted that nothing has changed at this month’s meeting. Cllr Byrne had drawn attention to discrepancies and conflicting information in the housing report at the June meeting and then at the July meeting this morning, she again noticed it was a copy and paste effort that had not been updated.
Cllr Byrne said “I noted to the chamber that it was not only on paper the communication was lacking. I attempted to bring to their attention an extremely sensitive and traumatic case which exposed a total lack of communication between the Director of Services (DOS) for Housing and the senior Executive Officer (SEO) for Housing. “
While Cllr Byrne tried to bring this to the Chamber, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Louth County Council, Joan Martin attempted to prevent her from speaking.
Joan Martin slammed her for bringing this up at a public meeting and advised her if she had an issue then she should go to her directly. Determined not to be silenced, Joanna Byrne stood her ground and said “My point in raising this here this morning, if you would let me finish, is because I am calling for a commitment from the DOS for Housing that there will be more transparency and communication between him and the senior officials on his Housing Team. I don’t and won’t accept people playing cat and mouse with information, especially when it has such a significant impact on people’s lives”
There was no response from the D.O.S in relation to this commitment for transparency but the SEO has since sent written confirmation of the updated data that was originally omitted from the housing report printed on the agenda.
Cllr Byrne said “The reason I am pushing for this data to be accurate every month is because it is our guide as public representatives as to where we stand on a month by month basis with regards to social housing applicant numbers, up to date information on projects under construction and so on. It is imperative that is given to us correctly so that we are passing out the right information to our constituents. This morning’s outburst from the CEO and her attempt to prevent me raising my concerns just proves the lack of accountability within the organisation.”