Gorey Guardian

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Motion on festival funding withdrawn after heated debate

Accusations fly as councillors find themselves conflicted over a motion on charity support post-Covid


Councillor Diarmuid Devereux

Councillor Diarmuid Devereux

Councillor Joe Sullivan

Councillor Joe Sullivan


Councillor Diarmuid Devereux

Spread across Gorey Library keeping social distance, councillors and Council officials met for their first formal and statutory meeting since February.

Although there were some technical difficulties, when lightning struck Wexford's County Hall building, it was clear that time apart had not healed grievances between some councillors.

It came to a head during a motion put forward by Fine Gael Councillor Diarmuid Devereux, which he later withdrew.

The motion read: 'That 2020 funding, budgeted for cancelled festivals and public events, be diverted into a once off Community Fund to assist community care service providers in North Wexford during the current fundraising shut down'.

Cllr Devereux said that he put it in good faith, on behalf of those who voted for him and elected him but said that he was aware of private discussions about his motion.

'I know it's not possible as a Municipal District that we can support everybody but I'm talking about essential services that have a dependency on fundraising from the community that will buckle. The last few months have been tough on people who depend on services provided by North Wexford's voluntary organisations and it's not until it takes a hit like this that we realise something has gone wrong.

'Every councillor has a service in their own parish, and I know they rely on community grants from the Council, but the Council couldn't have envisaged when we signed off on that budget that we were going to walk into the brick wall that we did. If each councillor picked out a local service and used a part of their discretionary fund and funding from the Market House Festival, it would be a wonderful gesture and send out a message.

'All the talk about opening Gorey is all about business and tourism but I'm not a tourist. I live here, I was born in this town and members of the community like me have a right to access to whatever is there in terms of spare funding'.

Councillor Fionntán O Súilleabháin said that he would have no problem in principle donating excess money.

'It's an army of volunteers that are running this country, being the glue that holds it together. It's frightening and obscene that we're running a mental health service like Talk To Tom through household donations and table quizzes.

'We had been discussing this festival funding in the working group, but I'm sure there's a possibility of both things in terms of supporting both businesses and charities, it doesn't have to be one or the other. We need a discussion on figures'.

He proposed an amendment to the motion, to keep both businesses and services happy.

'I would propose Talk To Tom benefit here, as it covers all of the district and mental health is going to be a challenge coming through the Covid period,' he said.

Councillor Andrew Bolger suggested that a memorial monument be created within the Town Park, for those we lost during the crisis not only to Covid-19 but those who couldn't mourn for lost loved ones in the usual way.

'Putting up a monument is well and good but to really thank the front line workers, this money is the only way to do it,' said Cllr Devereux.

Cllr Anthony Donohoe said that he'd support Diarmuid on his proposal, while Councillor Mary Farrell described feeling conflicted.

'I can see it from both sides. It's definitely worth considering and worth looking at Fionntan's amendment but there has to be other streams to tap into it, such as the Covid support community scheme, maybe that's the way to go, at the end of the day as long as we can support. All charities are deserving, and they're all front line,' she said.

Councillor Joe Sullivan asked about the logistics of the suggestion by Cllr Devereux.

'I want to know about the control of the money, how it'd be administration and what charities quality. Has this been thought through? I've supported out of my own pocket, currently involved at the moment with other councillors raising money to try. To try spin this that we're not supporting charities is completely wrong. We're totally supportive of charities but we don't actually have spare money in the Council. We have to run a business too and the people of Gorey will expect us to put on a festival next year and for life to return to normal.

'We're going to be doing a budget at the end of this year, and there are probably going to be cut backs in that budget. It's lovely to come in here with a good idea, but it's not that simple and if you stretch the money too far, it'll lose its impact'.

Cllr Devereux argued that of course it was thought through.

'I respect your view, but the thing that upsets me is that you've expressed those views before you even heard what I had to say today. There's more than two pillars to this, it's the society we live in and we haven't had the discussion. We need to send a signal out to our own community that the opening up is as much about our own community as it is tourists to coming in. These people live here with us and their back is to the wall.

'All I'm asking is that we nominate a sum of money to a charity that has suffered as a consequence of not be able to fundraise'.

Councillor Pip Breen suggested suspending the motion until next month, when all have a better idea of the financial situation.

'We'll be a lot wiser and if it's to be done, it has to be done in an organised and fair way when everything can be talked through,' he said.

Amanda Byrne said that the matter was not simple.

'I don't think anyone doubts that we're supportive of local charities but the idea that there's excess funds to give just simply doesn't fly. It doesn't take into account that local authority funds have been decimated over the last four months.

'At the end of the month the head of finance will be giving an update on our own budgetary situation. Watching the Late Late Show campaign every Friday night, there seemed to be no shortage of money in the community and no obstacle for people to donate. We could look at a piece of work with local charities to get their message out there, as we absolutely do want to support them but it's not as simple as here's a pot of money and we take from it'.

Earlier in discussions, councillors reviewed the schedule of Municipal District works spend and the member's spend proposal, which would be divided up in a way that would be decided by councillors on various projects.

Kilmuckridge based councillors spoke about an even spread of funds, while Amanda Byrne said that it would be better to look at the funding from a project basis and be able to deliver something.

On this point, Councillor Willie Kavanagh suggested considering using that funding for charities instead of doing a project.

He was told as it's discretionary money, it's ring-fenced for economic development.

'It's not there at this time until our finances are brought to order. It's not about logistics as Joe said, it's about the legality and terms and conditions.

'What I would suggest is the Covid Support Scheme as part of community resilience to charities and groups providing services. It's still not fully allocated,' said Amanda Byrne.

Councillor Devereux said that he had thought about the motion long and hard, but it's clear that this was not going to be possible and so he withdrew the motion.

During this discussion, Cllr Donohoe asked Cllr Sullivan to withdraw a remark which accused him of being a 'messenger' for Senator Michael D'Arcy.

'I'd like you to retract that Chairman, I'm here on my own volition,' said Cllr Donohoe.

Cllr Sullivan said that he wouldn't withdraw, and anything he says he stands over.

Gorey Guardian