“IF you think you haven’t been recorded, you’re nuts!”
That was the message from Green Party councillor Seán Hartigan at this Monday’s meeting of the local authority as he called for all public meetings to be video recorded and publicly available.
Cllr Hartigan took the view that this would provide an accurate record of meetings and protect councillors from attacks on social media.
The City East representative took issue with the Council’s response to a question and motion he had on the agenda on the matter, describing it as “airy fairy”.
The Council had said that the recording of a meeting may not be in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and depending on the circumstances, there may be legal remedies available.
However, Cllr Hartigan was far from impressed that they did not actually seek the legal opinion that he had requested.
“The fact is, anybody could record a meeting and put it up online, out of context,” he warned.
Recording the meetings, he suggested, would also make them shorter and more efficient.
“It would filter out the waffle and grandstanding and make them more professional.”
“This is for our protection. We need to be real here.”
Social Democrats councillors Elisa O’Donovan told the council executive that she had been calling for meetings to be streamed for the last two years to no avail. She said this would make the work of the Council “more transparent”.
Fine Gael councillor Stephen Keary did not agree with the move. He pointed out that councillors do not enjoy the same full legal privilege as TDs. He warned that what they say could be used against them later on.
Fianna Fáil councillor Michael Collins also voiced his opposition and feared the council chamber would become a “complete soapbox”.
Labour Party councillor Conor Sheehan didn’t think the public were missing out on much.
“It is enthralling stuff. People never repeat themselves,” he joked.
Fianna Fáil councillor Kevin Sheehan had a more ominous message for members.
“This is a dangerous game,” he warned.
“Do not make a decision on this today. Take legal advice. Why put your finger in the fire and not expect to get burned?”
Cllr Bridie Collins pointed out that the full meeting of the local authority is open to the public and that people were free to sit in the gallery or to get the link to observe online.
Cllr Daniel Butler reiterated her comments: “We are fully accessible. There is a gallery for the public. We are fully transparent. We are not trying to hide anything from anybody. We are just not that interesting really.”
Cllr Seán Hartigan told councillors that his prime concern was for their own protection.
“I am talking about protecting us. If you think you haven’t been recorded — you’re nuts!”