Minutes 2020

Minutes of Special Meeting of Sligo County Council held on Monday, 28th September, 2020 at 10.00 a.m. in The Council Chamber, County Hall, Riverside, Sligo.


  • Councillor Bree,
  • Councillor Connolly,
  • Councillor Fox,
  • Councillor Gibbons,
  • Councillor Maguire,
  • Councillor Mulvey,
  • Councillor O’Boyle and
  • Councillor O’Grady.



  • Ciarán Hayes, Chief Executive
  • Bartley Gavin, Director of Services
  • John Moran, Senior Executive Officer
  • Kevin Colreavy, Meetings Administrator
  • Jo-Anne McGonigle, Assistant Staff Officer



Cathaoirleach, Councillor D. Mulvey presided.



Apologies were received from

  • Councillor Baker,
  • Councillor Casserly,
  • Councillor Clarke,
  • Councillor Gilroy,
  • Councillor Healy,
  • Councillor MacSharry,
  • Councillor Mullaney,
  • Councillor Queenan,
  • Councillor Taylor and
  • Councillor Walsh.



The Cathaoirleach thanked the Members for their attendance.  It was noted that only a quorum had been sought for this meeting and apologies had been received from those not in attendance.

He then set out the details regarding the proposed change of venue.  This had occurred as the Knocknarea Arena at I.T. Sligo was no longer available.  The Meeting was advised that the Procedures Committee had agreed that, going forward, it would not be necessary to convene a Special Meeting for this purpose.  Standing Orders would be amended to confirm that the Cathaoirleach could decide on a suitable venue in an emergency situation, should this be necessary.

Following the issuing of the Agenda for this meeting, Standard Operating Guidelines had been received.  They had been issued jointly by the Association of Irish Local Government (A.I.LG.), Local Government Management Agency (L.G.M.A.) and the Local Authority Members Association (L.A.M.A.) and were entitled “Standard Operating Guidance – Attendance at Council Meetings by Elected Members and Council Officials/Others (Media and Public) and attendance at other meetings or Council Buildings”. 

The Cathaoirleach said there was an onus on the Members and Executive to act and take important measures to safeguard the health and safety of elected Members, Staff, Media and the Public.  A report would be prepared in light of the new requirements and this guidance will be included as a headed item on the October Meeting Agenda.

The Chief Executive noted that there had been a very good meeting of the Procedures Committee in recent days.  The Standard Operating Guidance had been received late on Friday evening and had been circulated to the Members.  This had reaffirmed the thorough discussions which had taken place at the Procedures Committee.  He then asked Mr. Gavin to step through the Guidance as it had changed at this time.  In some areas, this was quite significant.

Mr. Gavin informed the meeting that arrangements had been made to hold the October Meeting in the Sligo Park Hotel.  These arrangements had been made prior to receipt of the Guidance.  Areas which would require changes from previous meetings were set out, together with some procedures already in place.

  • Completion of Self Declaration form and form to be returned to the Meetings Administrator prior to the Meeting,
  • Anyone experiencing any symptoms of Covid-19 must not attend the Meeting,
  • A Response Plan to be in place (similar to that at the Knocknarea Arena) in the event that someone at the meeting becomes ill with Covid-19 symptoms,
  • Anyone regarded as vulnerable or categorised by the H.S.E. as being very high risk may be facilitated to access the meeting remotely if they so request. However, they must be advised that they would not have voting rights if accessing the meeting remotely,
  • Details of welfare facilities were also set out in the Guidance,
  • No tea/coffee or food was to be made available,
  • Access to meeting room to be controlled with only those on the attendance list permitted access,
  • Attendees to be encouraged to bring minimal personal belongings into the meeting room to avoid risk of contamination,
  • It is recommended that a face covering is worn on entering and leaving the building,
  • No congregation in the building before or after the meeting,
  • Meeting of members in the venue before or after the meeting to be actively discouraged,
  • Aim to keep hard copy document handing to the absolute minimum, use of electronic means as an alternative, where possible
  • Reflecting best practice, time of attendance at meeting is to be kept to a minimum and within a recommended maximum of 1 hour 55 minutes.  The Chair is to outline at the start and advise of meeting finish time,
  • Consideration to be given to the effective and efficient management of Notices of Motion.

Further Guidance was set out in the documentation regarding Members’ attendance at Council Buildings.  It was noted that this fleshed out what was required.  The emphasis in all of this was on public health and the requirement to minimise the time that groups spent together.

The Cathaoirleach said that everyone was well aware from the Media Briefings how high the figures were and climbing.  There was a duty of care in light of advice given by N.P.H.E.T. (the National Public Health Emergency Team).  This had been part of the discussions at the recent Procedures Committee Meeting and, also, of the Guidance received in recent days.  It should be ensured that Health and Safety were paramount.

Councillor Gibbons said he had a major concern in relation to the Guidance.  The Meeting had been called in relation to a change of venue for the October Meeting.  It should be debated by the full Council where different elements of it were likely to be queried. 

The Chief Executive confirmed, before every Meeting, there was an obligation to advise the Members of the procedures that the Executive would be abiding by and were required to abide by.  Since the last meeting, those procedures had changed and there was an obligation to advise the Members at this meeting.  This was what Mr. Gavin had just done.  It was intended to have this also listed as an official item on the Agenda for the next Ordinary Meeting of the Council.  This would provide an opportunity for all Members to have their input into it.  Now that the Guidance had issued to the Chief Executive, he had an obligation to apply it as far as that related to staff.

Councillor Bree said such Guidance had been discussed at the recent Procedures Committee Meeting.  He noted that the Guidance included an input from the L.G.M.A. which comprised of Chief Executives and County Managers.  He felt this was an attempt to muzzle Council Members and, as Elected Representatives, they had to lead by example.  He had looked at the Dáil Report for last week and gave examples of attendance commencing at 10.30 a.m. and concluding at 10.45 p.m. that night, the following day they attended from 10.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m.  With the Guidance, this was the Chief Executives of Ireland telling Members that they should meet for one hour and 55 minutes. 

In noting that the Meeting was to be held in the Sligo Park Hotel, Councillor Bree said that any member of the public could enter that premises at 10.30 a.m. and, as long as they maintained social distancing, they could remain there until 10.30 p.m.  He felt that Members had to be very wary of this.  In times of crisis, certain elements tried to take advantage.  This was a deliberate attempt to muzzle Local Government.  He noted that the recommendations from the Procedures Committee would be brought to the October Meeting and he hoped the full Council would support them.

The Chief Executive said that Councillor Bree had referred to information given at the Procedures Committee.  The further information which had been received came from the L.G.M.A. together with L.A.M.A. and the A.I.L.G.  These were the Members’ Associations.  As Civic Leaders, it was important to bear in mind the duty of care to each person in the Chamber or attending Council Meetings and show that leadership.  The September Council Meeting had taken over eight hours and people were in the Knocknarea Arena for that time.  That was not showing leadership and was certainly not in compliance with the Guidelines that had been received from the Members’ Representative Bodies.  It was disappointing that, at this stage, that there were age old conspiracy theories referred to.  In noting that he was in his fifth decade in Local Government, as was Councillor Bree, no one had lived through this previously and there was an obligation to show leadership.

Councillor Bree responded that the same leadership should be shown as was shown by the Dáil Deputies and Ministers. 

Councillor O’Boyle agreed with Councillor Bree that if the Dáil could hold Meetings, Council Members should be able to do the same.

The Chief Executive noted that this placed him in a difficult position.  The Council Members could make their decision and vote on it.  He, however, was now obliged to abide by the Guidance.  There was an obligation to his staff, not only to abide by the Guidance, but to show the leadership that was required.

Councillor Bree enquired if this was regardless of the decision of the Council.

The Chief Executive said that leadership was required in this regard.  The Guidance was from the National Authorities and Agencies, including Representative Bodies who had signed off on them.  These Bodies had been informed by N.P.H.E.T. and the pandemic and was guidance he was obliged to abide by. 

Councillor Bree said that they were drafted by Chief Executives of the Councils of Ireland who had no expertise in this area.  The Guidelines were being introduced to stymie the Council Members.  Also, L.A.M.A. or A.I.L.G. did not have that expertise, he continued, and again referred to the work undertaken by the Dáil Deputies and Ministers. 

The Chief Executive confirmed that the Chief Executives of the Local Government system, L.A.M.A. and the A.I.L.G. all got their advice from the Health Services and it was his intention to abide by that.


It was proposed by Councillor D. Bree
Seconded by Councillor A. Gibbons


“To approve holding the Ordinary Meeting of Sligo County Council on the 5th October, 2020 in the Sligo Park Hotel, Pearse Road, Sligo.”

The Cathaoirleach informed the Members that the Agenda for the Meeting would be issuing the next day and a report would issue relating to this area.

Councillor O’Grady said that, as a Member of the Plenary Group of the A.I.L.G. but not on the Executive, she had not been aware of the issuing of the Guidance document.  It was a concern for her that everything would be kept right and that no one would feel there was a conspiracy.  Everyone was interested in each other’s safety.  Councillor Bree had raised the issue of the Dáil and she asked that their Guidance would be sought for the October Meeting.  The wish was that everyone would be safe when the pandemic was over and nothing should be done that would prevent people from being safe.  Everyone has a duty of care and the Guidance in place in the Dáil should be obtained.  She also noted that this was not to say that they were functioning at 100% either.  However, as it had been raised, the documentation should be sought and the Members could examine it.  Having attended the lengthy Meeting in September, she said she had been conscious of having been a part of it and reiterated that there was no place for conspiracy theories.  It was now time to move on together on this at a very critical time for everyone.  It was more serious than was realised at the moment. 

The Chief Executive said he fully agreed that there was no place in the Chamber for conspiracy theories.  The Meeting in September had taken place over a period in excess of eight hours.  Regardless of social distancing being in operation, once a meeting was in excess of two hours, if anyone at that meeting had shown symptoms of Covid-19, everyone at that meeting would have to isolate and be tested.  That was putting everyone at risk.  The consequences were far too serious.  Because of that, he said he would certainly be applying the guidance.

Councillor Bree agreed that the Chief Executive was correct in what had happened in the Knocknarea Arena in September.  This had been discussed at the recent Procedures Meeting.  A decision had been reached that there would not be a repeat of that meeting.  There would be a break for lunch, attendees would not have lunch supplied and that would allow for them to leave the building.  Those recommendations were to come before the October Meeting.

The Meeting was informed by the Chief Executive that the report of the Procedures Committee would be brought before the Meeting, together with the new Guidance.  This had superseded the information available to them at the Procedures Committee Meeting.  He wished to note, in public, that he would be abiding by the new Guidelines.

It was then

Proposed by Councillor R. O’Grady
Seconded by Councillor G. O’Boyle


“That, for comparison purposes, a copy of the current procedures/protocols for meetings of the Dáil during the Covid-19 pandemic would be obtained.”

Mr. Gavin said that the focus was on the safety of Members, staff and wider public health.  This was to avoid the spread of the illness into the community from large gatherings over a period of time and reduce the number of people at that meeting.  While a break in a meeting did have value, the resumption of the meeting following the break did not compute in the same way as limited time at the meeting. 

The Cathaoirleach confirmed that the Guidance would be sought from the Dáil and the October Meeting would take place at 10.00 a.m. on Monday, 5th October in the Sligo Park Hotel. 

Councillor O’Grady noted that the recommendations from the Procedures Committee had been to work for three hours and take a break.  The Guidelines now set out one hour and 55 minutes.  Until advice would be received that the longer meeting would be safe, she would be following the one hour and 55 minutes guidance.  At previous meetings, people had attended at the Knocknarea Arena and had moved around the meeting room.  Also, the reference to not entering the meeting room until the meeting is ready to commence was noted. 

This concluded the discussion on the matter and the Cathaoirleach added that he wished to inform Members that there would be an adjournment at the commencement of the Meeting on Monday as a mark of respect to the late Gabriel MacSharry, father of Councillor Tom MacSharry, who had died recently.



The business of the meeting concluded at 10.40 a.m.


Meeting Date 28/09/2020