COUNCILLOR Ian Lynch has expressed “bitter disappointment” at Clare County Council’s decision not to debate his motion, relating to the purchase of houses by Clare County Council on the Beál an Inbhir estate in Kilrush.
It was the first time in many decades that a sitting councillor was stopped from having their motion debated.
“It’s extremely disappointing that a decision has been made without being privy to the full facts. Legal advice was sought on the motion and opinion was formed based on one side of the available information,” he claimed.
“At Monday’s meeting, I asked for the members to hear my claim that the legal advice was incorrect but members chose not to give me the opportunity to stand behind my motion. The removal of my motion denied me the right of raising genuine concerns in relation to how these houses are being purchased. By removing the notice from the agenda, I was further denied the opportunity to amend the motion and my right to seek a second legal opinion,” the Kilrush independent councillor added.
He claimed that his motion, which was not heard, was “not to slow the process of acquiring houses. Quite the opposite in fact. Clare County Council have continuously highlighted the extensive housing need in Kilrush but proceeding with this purchase is not addressing this need. These houses are subject to planning and it is conceivable that a further appeal will be made to An Bord Pleanála, further delaying the acquisition, while families are in dire straits. It just does not stand to reason that Clare County Council would not wish to discuss these serious points,” he said.
Councillor Lynch maintains that the council should have looked at purchasing alternative houses in Kilrush, which he insists would be more speedily available.
“Seven of the Beal an Inbhir properties are subject to planning change from holiday accommodation to residential. As a tourist town, with a lack of accommodation, it goes against reason that Clare County Council would take these properties out of the tourist accommodation market. No other houses have been looked at as a back-up if these houses are not purchased,” he said.
Councillor Lynch claimed that seven houses in the estate are under the affordable (social) housing scheme, while if a further 12 houses were purchased, that would bring the total to 19 social houses on an estate of 40 homes.
“I find it very difficult to understand why the council is insisting on favouring the purchase of these houses, when more suitable houses are readily available. If I was not to ask these questions, I believe I would have failed in my obligation as a public representative,” he concluded.
At Monday’s council meeting councillors voted against a proposal that would have facilitated a debate about the controversial purchase of houses in Kilrush by the local authority.
Councillor Lynch required 16 councillors to vote in favour of his plea to suspend standing orders to allow the debate. However, his efforts to get answers to a number of questions concerning the background to the proposed purchase fell short by just one vote; it was supported by 15 councillors while 11 voted against.
Councillors were advised at the meeting that Councillor Lynch’s motion, which wasn’t included on the council agenda, was invalid and ultra vires, following advice that was received from the county solicitor, John Shaw.
Councillor PJ Kelly said he was shocked and disappointed when he heard that the motion wasn’t placed on the agenda for last Monday’s meeting.
The Lissycasey councillor claimed this was the first time in over 40 years of his time on the authority that this had happened.
He said councillors were entitled to a second legal opinion from a solicitor and having consulted with a barrister, a second opinion from a barrister, if necessary.
Describing what happened as a “sham”, a “challenge” and “affront” to local democracy, he said he was reluctant to go for a Section 212 that would decide “who is right and who is wrong”.
Following the vote, council chairman, Councillor James Breen said that anyone who wanted to challenge this ruling would have to do so outside the council chamber.