CORK City Council has reversed a decision to hold its new area committee meetings behind closed doors after pressure from councillors, the press, and the public.
Party whips confirmed the change at a meeting yesterday, and the public and press will have access when the committees reconvene in September.
With the expansion of the city boundary, Cork City Council changed the structure of its meetings, reducing the number of full council meetings from once a fortnight to once a month, with monthly area meetings added to allow councillors to discuss matters within their own expanded wards.
However, a proposal to hold these meetings privately was met with controversy, with questions raised about the transparency of the council.
Speaking after yesterday’s party whip meeting, Fianna Fáil councillor Terry Shannon said that there needed to be a “bedding-in period” in order to establish the new committee system, but they will be held in full view once they get to work in the autumn.
“The committees will meet again in September and there will be public access.
“It’s a work in progress. It
is new, and it should be organic.
“What we have agreed now is to get it up and running and see how they are all working,” he said, adding that there will be a six-month review to ensure that the new system is functioning well.
Four of the five committees met concurrently yesterday, while the remaining one, Cork City South-East, will meet today.
However, a new timetable for the meetings may need to be worked out to allow City Hall staff and the press to attend multiple meeting.
The committees may opt to hold occasional meetings in community centres around the city.
Solidarity councillor Fiona Ryan welcomed the move.
“It’s not just because of pressure inside the council, but pressure externally as well, that this decision was reversed.
“I think what we need to be striving for in 2019 is more transparency in local government, not less,” she said.