Rates debate collapses over Councillor’s Facebook updates

January 28, 2013

SDLP Councillors stormed out of a Council meeting on Wednesday in protest when it emerged that another Councillor was posting messages on a social network site in relation to proceedings ongoing at the meeting.

Discussions on the striking of this year’s Rates were interrupted when the SDLP group walked out of the Chamber and accused Sinn Fein Councillor Charlie Casey of “brazen irresponsible behaviour”.  The party says it will ask the Council to censure Mr Casey for his actions.

During the meeting, Councillor Casey used his Facebook page to update followers to proceedings, detailing Council costs to be met by Rate payments and the efforts of Councillors and officials to keep Rate rises to a minimum.

However, the SDLP Councillors reacted angrily and group leader, Connaire McGreevy, accused Mr Casey of attempting to “score cheap political points” by deliberately misquoting suggestions from SDLP members on how to make savings.

“We began discussions early on Wednesday morning to try to reduce the projected rates increase and as far as we were concerned bring it down from 4 per cent to zero.  These discussions are always very delicate because we have to consider some very sensitive issues and look at every item of expenditure,” Councillor McGreevy explained.

“During the course of the meeting we were alerted to the fact that while in the Chamber Councillor Charlie Casey was putting messages on Facebook to score cheap political points against us based on deliberately misquoting our savings suggestions.  Councillor Casey’s party had no proposals of their own when asked directly by the Chairman, yet all he  could do was make a sneaky attack.

“Serious negotiations can only be done in good faith and he destroyed the process by which we hoped to set a zero increase,” he added angrily.

Responding to the accusation, the Sinn Fein group leader on the Council, Mickey Ruane, described the behaviour of the SDLP as ‘childish’ adding that the meeting continued even when SDLP members left the Chamber.

Pointing out the significance of on-line communication, he said: “Multi-media is now an everyday fact of life.  Councillor McGreevey himself posted information regarding a meeting on Facebook on a previous occasion, saying Councillor Murphy had denied his home town club funding.  SDLP have in the past brought a motion to Council looking for meetings to be streamed live to the public.

“At the previous rates meeting to reduce the budget, the SDLP added £200,000 to the budget, hardly the actions to bring about a 0 per cent rate,” he added.

“We are willing to work with anyone.  We want to bring the rates down to 0 per cent, however, it would be extremely difficult to achieve that rate this year with the number of ongoing strategic projects that are in process.”

When contacted by The Examiner, Mr Eddy Curtis, the Council’s Director of Administration, said: “This is a political matter which can only be commented on by the political leaders of each party.”