Sunday 17 December 2017

Cllrs to get help filling in declaration home forms

Cllr Hugh McElvaney from Monaghan, whose appearance on RTE's Prime Time programme has sparked controversy.
Cllr Hugh McElvaney from Monaghan, whose appearance on RTE's Prime Time programme has sparked controversy.

Wexford's councillors will be given a presentation and receive help filling out their declaration of interests forms.

The fallout from the RTE Investigates expose was palpable at the meeting as some councillors jumped to the defence of their beleaguered colleagues.

Cllr Malcolm Byrne put forward a motion calling on a strengthening of the law to take action against any representative or official found guilty of corruption, tax evasion or abuse of office for personal gain, the establishment of a national anti-corruption office to address any allegations of abuse, a streamlining of the declaration requirements of public representatives, so that councillors only have to fill in one form each year, that this can be done online and that Wexford County Council will publish all councillors' declarations of interest on its website each year. Cllr Paddy Kavanagh said he attended a meeting the previous Saturday at which Cllr Hugh McElvaney was asked to withdraw from the Local Authority Members Association (LAMA).

Cllr Kavanagh said: 'He was a former chairman of LAMA. We asked him to step down. We felt we couldn't have Cllr McElvaney representing councillors after the Prime Time programme.'

Councillors expressed concern that they will be 'tarred with the one brush' and perceived to be all engaged in corruption.

Cllr Byrne said: 'What was notable about the programme was that not a single Wexford councillor was highlighted. We may have our disagreements around this chamber but every one of us works hard and believes in our communities.'

Cllr Kavanagh was critical of the way in which information was gleaned for the programme, adding: 'I'm not trying to justify the actions of any of the councillors.'

He said there are many new councillors in Wexford, adding that an official should come to the chamber in January and go through it section by section to help the members fill it out properly.

'People weren't aware they had to put down their own residence. What RTE did is frightening people away from entering the democratic system as you are put through the minute microscope.'

Cllr Deirdre Wadding said she supports what RTE did, saying the programme reflected the minority of councillors.

Cllr Wadding added: 'But it's the tip of the iceberg. I would love to think there is no-one here guilty of corruption but the law of averages (suggests otherwise).'

'Does that include yourself,' Fianna Fáil Cllr Fergie Kehoe said.

She said the declaration of interests form was easy to fill in and said if anyone had a problem they could ask a finance official for assistance.

'You only get entrapped by entrapment if you are doing something wrong in the first place. I think it's important that we take a stand. People guilty of fraud should be charged and jailed.'

Cllr Keith Doyle agreed, saying: 'I don't think it takes an awful lot of intelligence to fill out that form. The problem is people didn't fill it out completely.'

Labour Cllr Robbie Ireton described the RTE programme as 'a total disgrace'

Cllr Ireton said: 'If this motion was tabled 15 years ago there would be a lot less TDs and councillors out there today.'

Chairman Tony Dempsey confirmed that an official will come in to assist councillors fill out their forms next month.

The motion was unanimously supported.

Wexford People

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