A local authority chairperson has turned down an all-expenses paid trip to New York for St Patrick’s Day because he is too busy calving cows.
Fine Gael councillor and chairman of Laois County Council Wille Aird, who is also a dairy farmer near Portlaoise, turned down the offer 15 years ago as he was busy with work commitments then also.
“It’s because of my work commitments, I can’t get anybody to fill in for me, I have a lot of cows calving at that time, I couldn’t walk away,” explained Cllr Aird.
Cllr Aird has the right to nominate his replacement for the trip. However, at a recent monthly meeting of the Co Council, Sinn Féin councillor Aidan Mullins proposed that all the councillor’s names should be placed in a hat and a person being chosen randomly.
Cllr Mullins explained that he had to ask what the protocol was when the chair and vice chair could not attend. “This trip should be open to all councillors despite their political background and putting their names in a hat seemed the most democratic to me.
“But being honest if my name was drawn to go I wouldn’t have as nothing ever comes out of this annual junket which costs the taxpayer a lot of money in the long run.
“I’m on the record as saying that I believe these trips never amount to any extra tourists or jobs into the county from international companies. We would be better sending Homer Simpson of the Simpsons cartoon to represent us”.
The Co Council’s vice Fianna Fáil’s chairperson John Joe Fennelly had proposed that councillors accept the invitation which is sent every year by the Laois Association in New York.
Cllr Fennelly has declined to take Cllr Aird’s place, despite being next in line. No reason has been given why the vice chair cannot attend.
The choice of councillor who goes is not being opened to any of the remaining 17 councillors.
Cllr Aird has now nominated his Fine Gael colleague Cllr Conor Bergin.
Cllr Bergin, who was elected last May, will accompany a council senior official on the trip.
They will spend several days in the city meeting Laois diaspora as well as business and tourism figures to promote Laois.
As far back as 2004 an especially strong Laois contingent travelled to New York for St Patrick’s Day festivities as St Joseph’s Accordion Band from Portlaoise marched in the parade down the famed 5th Avenue.
Next month’s trip is paid from Laois County Council’s budget.
Despite efforts to make further contact with Cllr Aird he did not make any comment.