Kilkenny moves closer to allow council decisions made remotely

'As soon as we can get back to face-to-face meetings and guidelines allow, we get back to face-to-face meetings'

Sam Matthews

Reporter:

Sam Matthews

Email:

sam.matthews@kilkennypeople.ie

KILKENNY

A number of meetings have taken place online or remotely, but to date, a quorum of members had to be physically present to make binding statutory decisions

Councillors have moved a step closer to being able to make statutory decisions remotely via online and telephone meetings.

To date, council statutory decisions have to be made by elected members in a physical setting, with at least a quorum present. However, new legislation has been brought forward in recent weeks as a result of the problems posed by the pandemic, and so far it looks to have the backing of Kilkenny’s councillors.

At the November meeting of Piltown Municipal District, the members expressed their support for the new measure, with the caveats that any technical/sound difficulties be smoothed out and that physical meetings be resumed as soon as public health guidelines allow.

Two councillors of the five – Cllrs Fidelis Doherty and Tomas Breathnach — as well as members of the media joined the meeting remotely either by phone or Microsoft Teams. However, there were a number of technical glitches, and at times, presentations from council management and contributions from some were difficult to hear. This issue was acknowledged by several meeting participants.

Senior executive officer Michael Arthurs informed the members that the council had been issued with the update for council meeting standing orders only one day prior. He said the quorum present could sign off on the supplementary standing orders, which would complement the minister’s order effectively giving way that remote meetings can take place and statutory decisions be made at them.

“If that’s a decision from the quorum here, we can proceed on that basis,” he said.

Invited to offer their thoughts, Cllrs Doherty and Breathnach both expressed consent.

“The only caveat I have, to emphasise, is that it is subject to the quality of the communication being satisfactory. But in principal, yes,” said Cllr Breathnach.

Cllr Eamon Aylward, who chaired the meeting, noted the previous meeting where everyone had been online/remote had fewer   issues with sound quality.

“The proposal is that from the December meeting on, if we have to take a statutory vote on something it will be valid by doing that remotely. So we can all [do so] remotely — not half of us here and half online.

“I would put the caveat that as soon as we can get back to face-to-face meetings and public health guidelines allow us to do that, that we get back to face-to-face meetings.”

The item was agreed by those present and the two members working remotely.