THE attendance record of Waterford City & County Councillors at all meetings they are officially invited to attend is comprehensively recorded by the Council’s Corporate Office, according to Chief Executive Michael Walsh.
Speaking at the Plenary meeting held remotely on Thursday last, Mr Walsh stated: “The reality is that in terms of the attendance at meetings, you can see Honor (Dunphy, the Meetings Administrator and Administrative Officer) records the attendance at every meeting there by way of roll call at the start. And ultimately, Councillors have the right; if there’s any issue with the accuracy of that, it’s put on full record in terms of the next Council meeting and it’s a matter for any Councillor to correct the record when the minutes of that meeting go on display.”
The matter arose after Cllr Conor McGuinness (SF) referred to “a local newspaper” (the publication wasn’t specified) regarding the attendance levels of Waterford Councillors at meetings held in 2020.
He said a number of Councillors had contacted him regarding what they had described to him as “discrepancies in the attendances recorded and reported in that article. No doubt, the author of that article received attendances from the Council in some way so the fault probably lies with maybe the recording or something like that. I just wanted to get some clarity on how attendance is recorded, on how it’s published and what recourse Councillors have to maybe correct the record if they believe there has been a discrepancy.”
Regarding the recording of Councillors’ attendance at meetings, Mr Walsh stated: “It’s done rigorously; there’s a sheet filled in at every meeting and it’s there as a matter of record and that’s the record that’s given if there’s an FOI request for information from anybody.”
In our February 16 edition, this newspaper reported about the final meetings attendance spreadsheet made publicly available on the Council’s website at the end of last year.
That spreadsheet revealed that three of Waterford’s 32 Councillors attended all meetings during the year: namely Fianna Fáil’s Jason Murphy and John O’Leary, along with Labour’s John Pratt.
Waterford City & County Mayor Damien Geoghegan (FG) claimed the reporting of the annual attendance records didn’t “take into consideration, for example, the reasons behind why a Councillor may not have attended a meeting. It could have been a bereavement, for example or it could have been an illness… the reality is (that) behind every absence from a Council meeting, there is a particular story behind it. Councillors are human the same as anybody else and they may miss a meeting from time to time.”
Mayor Geoghegan added: “There’s one particular Councillor today who’s not at this meeting because he’s in hospital having treatment and yet it will be on the record that he was absent and it’s going to be as black and white as that… and you shouldn’t be judged, if you do happen to miss a meeting from time to time due to an illness or due to a bereavement.”
Cllr Mary Roche (Ind), “as somebody who had two children while a Councillor”, reminded members that “there is no facility either for maternity leave (for elected members). You could actually be in the labour ward, delivering a baby, and all you’ll be recorded as is ‘missing the meeting’ so that certainly needs to be addressed by (Central) Government.”