05/08/2021

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Councillor taking legal action over Donegal County Council meeting

Cllr Frank McBrearty's emergency mica motion undiscussed

Cllr Frank McBrearty

Councillor taking legal action over Donegal County Council meeting

The Donegal County Council consideration of an emergency motion proposed by Cllr Frank McBrearty (Independent) regarding the Council's purchase of mica-affected dwellings in Inishowen as social housing, has been postponed.

The five houses, in An Crannla estate in Buncrana, tested positive for mica, with a 15% ratio in the blocks. Despite the Council being aware of this, it bought the houses, at a total price of €600,000.

At the outset of the online resumed May plenary meeting of Donegal County Council this morning, Cllr McBrearty said: "I am proposing the suspension of standing orders today as it was in the public interest we debate and have answers from the Executive on the purchase of five mica properties in Buncrana and we be given the full paper trail on that transaction and on the leasing of those properties beforehand.

"It is more important we debate this motion as it is in the public interest. It is more important that any of the other motions on the agenda today. Donegal lives matter far more than this agenda today."

Cllr McBrearty's motion was seconded by Cllr Michéal Choilm Mac Giolla Easbuig (Independent).

There was no counter proposal to Cllr McBrearty's emergency motion, which meant it stood.

Commenting on Cllr McBrearty's emergency motion, John McLaughlin, Donegal County Council's CEO said he had received a copy of it on Saturday evening and would recommend Council to seek legal advice on its contents before debating it.

Mr McLaughlin said: "Given the nature of the motion, it names staff, it names former staff, and it names councillors, I would recommend Council gets legal advice on the role of the Council on the motion and take it at a later time.

"I have no problem at all, is having a report done on those five houses in Buncrana, on the specifics and circulating it internally to members. 

"However, on the nature of the wider motion, I think, in fairness to members, we should take legal advice and take it later on when we get that.

"It is very important for councillors to stick together and support homeowners with mica in Donegal. While we might not have a very direct role, we have a role in bringing the community together and working for the betterment of the citizens. I would encourage us all to do that to find solutions," said Mr McLaughlin.

John McLaughlin said he was also having a report carried out to to clarify the role of the Council, over the years, around block manufacture and their use.

He added: "It will take some time to take that from 1980 forwards, in terms of government standards and the role of council

"I will make that available when it is done. It is important to have the proper facts and information out in the public domain. The Council, as a body has no problem making that available. The facts speak for themselves and they will," said John McLaughlin.

At the conclusion of the almost seven hour meeting, Cllr Gerry McMonagle (Sinn Féin) suggested Cllr McBrearty's emergency motion be discussed at the July Donegal County Council meeting, which would be considering the Local Property Tax, as it was a "valid proposal".

Cllr McBrearty said he did not understand Cllr McMonagle's suggestion.

He added: "I wrote to you [Cathaoirleach Rena Donaghey] on June 3 and on June 12 and I requested a special meeting to discuss this issue. I then had to put down an emergency motion, which Sinn Féin wrote to me and said they would not support. This is now kicking the can down the road, not allowing accountability for the actions of the Council, purchasing houses for €600,000 and those houses and those houses are worth between €5,000 and €15,000. 

"Cllr McMonagle is asking me to put away my proposal that I made at the start of this meeting. The rules indicate, once you make a proposal and it is seconded, there either has to be a counter proposal to that or it is accepted that the standing orders will be suspended. 

"I am not leaving it [until July]. This is the most important national issue. My proposal was accepted because no-one put in a counter proposal. The Council has gone away this afternoon looking for legal advice on that proposal.

"If members are serious about discussing my motion, they will arrange a special meeting this week to do so. Technically speaking, my motion should have been heard this morning," said Cllr McBrearty.

Speaking to Donegal Live following the lengthy Donegal County Council meeting, Cllr Mc Brearty said he was going to send a solicitor's letter to Donegal County Council's Cathaoirleach and Chief Executive, as a result of the way his emergency motion had been handled. 

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