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Local authority is to reverse a move to exclude the media and public from policy meetings

A local authority is to reverse a move to exclude the media and public from policy meetings.

The move by Kilkenny County Council meetings follows criticism by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) that a “national policy” is needed to ensure transparency with regard to the Strategic Policy Committee (SPC).

“While there has been an improvement in recent years in media access in local government some councils are now abusing that. The committees should operate in public, much like the Oireachtas Committees at the national level.

“If they need to conduct some of their business in a private session, as happens at Oireachtas Committees, that is one thing. But the principle must be that they are heard in public.”

A report published last year carried out by Transparency International, Transparency, Accountability and Ethics in Local Authorities, highlighted that “ Ideally all Council meetings should be webcast.”

Fine Gael councillor Mary Hilda Cavanagh said the members had a long discussion on the decision since. She asked that in future, councillors be given notice of any change to the policy of this sort, and not on the third Monday in May "a week before the local elections".

She said in her opinion it was not the time to discuss policy.