‘Big Brother’ for City Hall?

“CONDUCT yourselves with dignity and clean up your act,” is the warning to colleagues from City Councillor Tom Shortt, who is demanding that the reality of council meetings be televised and streamed on line.

He expressed annoyance and embarrassment at what he described as “disorderly conduct” at meetings, and wants such behaviour to cease.

Shortt also claims that a code of conduct is being broken, when they should be setting example for others.

Now he is proposing ‘live’ broadcasts of future meetings be streamed on the council’s website, to let the public see first hand what their representatives are up to.

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And that’s not the only action he wants taken to end often overheated debates, which, he says, can become personal.

Elected for the first time last year, the art teacher suggests that CCTV cameras be installed in the chamber.

He explained: “Councillors have campaigned vigorously to have CCTV on streets to make people behave properly. Now, let’s have it at meetings for the same purpose.  “And broadcasting our sessions to the public would help resolve ongoing problems with disorderly conduct”.

He will address the issues at a protocol meeting next week.

“We live in a digital age, and my proposals would increase transparency and make councillors more conscious of image”.

He has been taken aback by the ‘distracted’ nature of proceedings in the chamber.

“People are having side-conversations, texting and leaving to take calls, making it a difficult environment for others. This culture needs to be questioned”.

Making reference to heated argument in the chamber, he continued: “When I brought the matter up recently some people suggested I should speak to members of my own party, but there are culprits on every side”.

He admitted that he was embarrassed by the ‘noisy, boisterous behaviour” of recent proceedings, watched by a group of journalism students.

“I despair to think of what they thought. I’d say they went away with a dim view of local politics”.

The Thomondgate councillor said that he didn’t want to be seen taking the high morale ground

“At the end of the day we are all titled dignitaries and each councillor has signed up to a code of conduct, but this is not being enforced”.

He compared the distracted nature of the council chamber to that of a classroom. “We have to have respect for each other in order for meetings to progress, and respect for the people who voted us in”.

Cllr Shortt, who used a video to promote himself during last year’s local election campaign, believes that Limerick City Council should be looking at ways to make local politics more accessible.

He concluded: “The Oireachtas Report on TV is quite popular… people like to log on to watch specifics debates and motions. What better way to interest people in the workings of the council and to measure the performance of their councillors”.