Limerick councillors’ anger at threats to cut allowances if they don’t improve attendance at meetings

Limerick councilors have hit back after being told to improve attendance at meetings or their allowances will be cut.

Council members have expressed concern that meetings take place outside of family-friendly hours and clash with full-time jobs during the day.

In order for council members to receive their full payment of the annual allowance, they must have an 80 percent attendance record.

Limerick Borough Council has sent warning letters to four councilors who failed to reach the 80 per cent mark between January and June this year.

Independent Cllr Emmett O’Brien, Social Democrat Cllr Elisa O’Donovan and Fianna Fáil Cllr Kevin Sheahan and Michael Collins failed to reach the 80 percent mark in the first six months of this year

Cllr O’Brien has the worst attendance record at 58 percent, having attended 18 of 31 sessions.

“Expenditure will be reviewed again in December and if you do not meet the 80 per cent requirement by that time your annual allowance will be reduced accordingly,” read a letter to Cllr O’Brien from a clerk at Limerick Council.

The city council said it was making “every effort” to attend as many “relevant meetings” as possible.

“I have repeatedly expressed reservations about the need to participate [strategic policy committee] Meetings and briefings that are often endless meetings that fizzle out,” said Cllr O’Brien.

“Being in full-time post-Covid, these meetings are not helpful for full-timers and I have repeatedly requested that they be held in the evenings.”

Cllr O’Donovan has a record 59 percent, having attended 13 of 22 meetings. However, she said she has an “almost complete” attendance record at county council and metropolitan district (MDC) meetings.

“I missed an MDC meeting after it was postponed at short notice and I wasn’t able to take extra leave to attend,” she said.

Cllr O’Donovan said the council made “absolutely no effort” to schedule meetings for council members who work outside of politics and said she has to book annual leave to attend meetings.

“I work as a primary care speech therapist, an area that’s under a lot of pressure with record-high treatment waiting lists,” she said.

“I have asked on numerous occasions for the Council to hold evening meetings, as is the case in Cork and Dublin, to accommodate Labor Councils. This has not been facilitated and there is no indication that it ever will be.

“I’m just not able to attend every single meeting that’s being held to discuss more discreet topics.”

Cllr Collins, who has a record 63 per cent, said he was out of work for four months because of bowel surgery earlier this year.

He said he attended two online meetings, which were not properly logged, and one of the virtual meetings, which he attended while still in the hospital.

“I’m one of the better councilors for attendance and I’m hoping to end the year well over 80 percent,” he said.

Cllr Sheahan, who has a record 74 percent and has attended 20 of 27 meetings, did not respond to a request for comment. Limerick councillors’ anger at threats to cut allowances if they don’t improve attendance at meetings

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