Monday 19 March 2018

Always read small print, not just the headline

Dear Madam,

I would like to start my letter by congratulating all the candidates who had the courage to put their names forward for what was a gruelling local election campaign.

I would like to extend my very good wishes to those who were elected to the new council, also to the workers and supporters of all the election candidates.

I would like to continue by bringing a matter to your readers for consideration, a matter that I feel deserves attention.

I take this opportunity first of all to offer a small piece of very sound advice to readers everywhere, "ALWAYS READ THE DETAILS AND SMALL PRINT" when reading a snappy headline.

In order to sensationalise a story the details are sometimes misplaced, as they may take away from the drama and thrust of the commentary and we wouldn't want that, would we?

So when 'Councillors' expenses' for Sligo County Council were released to the media at an important and crucial stage in the local election campaign, no detailed breakdown of the figures was given!!

The question you may be asking here is, how could some councillors receive greater amounts than others?

Yes, the public were disgruntled and dissatisfied that some councillors received more than others and no explanation was presented.

This information was brought on to the doorstep by canvassers as part of the election campaign for some candidates and reinforced by the words "Look how much Veronica Cawley got".

No additional information was given; in fact those endorsing the importance of the figures did not bother with the detail, nor were they concerned.

It was a great canvass tool, a gift, to sell and further disguise the issues to a very disheartened public.

A public already weary from the impact of government cuts to the very core of their everyday lives, the words 'sharp practice' comes to mind.

So to thin out the plot for future reference, the answer is quite simple

1. The figures were calculated over a period of two years and added together to have maximum impact.

2. During that time period I was the Chair of Sligo County Council (June 2012- June 2013)

3. The wages attached to the chair position is €35,000.

4. €10,000 is taken from that €35,000 for hospitality leaving €25,000.

5. I asked for and received from my employer an unpaid year's leave from my job, as a grade 3 member of staff at the Institute of Technology, Sligo to carry out my duties as Chair Sligo County Council.

6. In the lead up to the G8 summit I made a contribution of €1,000 to the development of a successful promotion pack for the visitors who filled every hotel room in Sligo in order to bring attention Sligo as a tourism destination.

7. None of this information was given by any of the media who published these figures.

8. Some media did contact me, but decided not to run with the story.

9. Another small detail of information that was overlooked, the wages received by all councillors (€16,565) and the salary received for the position of Chairperson or Mayor is subject to tax, PRSI, pension levy and USC the same as everyone else.

10. Any expense claimed on foot of an expense incurred, is paid at the public service rate.

When you read this and it comes as news to you, learn from it, think twice when you see snappy headlines and don't get caught up in opportunist and sensationalist news reports.

When fed a line on the doorsteps do ask for proof and clarification before jumping to conclusions, "READ THE SMALL PRINT."

Chances are that the truth is in the detail which is not readily available... chances are a more detailed explanation is required before action is taken or judgements made, remember our democracy is a fragile creature, open and delicate.

Every aspect of Irish life should be checked for the details, if this advice was exercised at all levels we would not be in our current situation.

Then the forthright people of Ireland would not be suffering the back lashes and burden that they are today.

I ask you again to always read the small print and check the details of snappy, sensational headlines.

They are meant to attract attention but can and are used, by some to achieve their own objectives.

If you take the time to do a simple calculation and look at the figures, you will see that the specified expenses I received is equal to those among the lowest paid councillors when the year's salary for the chairperson is taken into account.

That's what is in the small print and the devil is in the details.

Thank you,

Veronica Cawley

(Editor's Note: The Sligo Champion chose not to run with the national story referred to above regarding councillor's expenses in the run up to the local elections in the interest of fairness.)

Sligo Champion