An argument over Kilkenny Borough Council’s Smarter Travel Programme got four members of Kilkenny Borough Council walking.
Cllr Joe Reidy (FF), Cllr Betty Manning (FG), Cllr Joe Malone (FF) and Cllr Andrew McGuinness (FF) were so incensed over works that had been carried out on College Road that they walked out of the council chamber in protest. No sooner had they left the council than they were accused of “political grandstanding” by some of the remaining councillors.
Road works have been carried out along the College Road that have resulted in the loss of about 20 car parking spaces due to the provision of a new cycle path. The councillors who left were annoyed that they had not been consulted about the changes before they were carried out.
The issue arose when Cllr Reidy asked if he could get a clarification as to what the role of the council was in relation to the road. Cllr Reidy asked whether, if he put forward a motion requesting that the road be put returned to its previous incarnation, the council would be bound by it.
Mayor David Fitzgerald said he had put a similar question to director of services John Mulholland earlier in the day. Mr Mulholland had responded that the council only had the power to stop works from proceeding and not to undo works that had been finished.
When Mr Mulholland was questioned further by Mayor Fitzgerald whether the Borough Council had any “role or function in this,” Mr Mulholland responded “under the Local Government Act, no.”
Cllr Manning said that the whole issue boiled down to consultation. “Has any member been consulted about design and the loss of 20 spaces? We should be consulted about design. The removal of 20 car parking spaces at College Road is nothing short of disgraceful at a time when most people are encouraging business and visitors to our city,” said Cllr Manning.
It was Cllr Reidy who led the walk-out. “The only thing I can do because we have no powers on this issue, is that rather than expend any more hot air on it, I’m going to walk out. I don’t know what we were elected for at all anymore,” said Cllr Reidy.
When the door of the council chamber had closed behind the exiting councillors, Cllr Seán Ó hArgáin (Lab) said: “Some peace, at last.”
Cllr Malcolm Noonan (Green) said the next item on the agenda, the Central Access Scheme, was far more important. “Yet they choose to politically grandstand and walk out of the room,” he said. Cllr Noonan called on people to give the College Road scheme a chance.
Cllr Ó hArgáin echoed Cllr Noonan. “I’m sick of cynical grandstanding that is going on tonight,” he said. Cllr Ó hArgáin said that to suggest that the council undo the work that has already been done would be a huge waste of taxpayers’ money.
Cllr Martin Brett (FG) sympathised with those who had left. He said that “tonight was about consultation, and that didn’t happen. We got it very wrong and we weren’t consulted. The people who walked out are very upset.”