City councillors to vote on streaming of meetings

The elected members of Galway City Council will decide in the coming weeks whether to allow for the installation of cameras in their Chamber for live streaming of meetings.

The supply and installation of equipment would cost in the region of €35,000.

The issue will come up for decision later this month when councillors meet to agree their budget for 2018.

A spokesperson for the Council said the idea of broadcasting meetings on the local authority’s website is something that has been discussed for a number of years, but the Council has only now received quotations in relation to the cost.

Labour councillor Niall McNelis expressed concern about the concept, highlighting the legal implications the Council may face if something defamatory were to be broadcast from the meeting.

“I personally have major concerns about the concept. The reason being, I don’t want the city being liable for whatever is said at the meeting.

“I did look for legal clarification about this and nothing has come back.

“If somebody has a rush of blood in the middle of a meeting and makes an accusation about a private individual or company or whatever, not only could the individual be in trouble but the city council could also be in trouble so it’s not just a matter of setting up a live web came and seeing what happens. We do live in a world of a lot of litigation these days,” Cllr McNelis said.

One means of overcoming the issues raised by Cllr McNelis would be to broadcast deferred coverage of the meetings, similar to the approach taken by Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown City Council, which would allow for elements of the meeting to be edited out if needs be but in the eyes of Cllr McNelis, that too creates issues.

“Does that not defeat the purpose? I mean if you read the minutes of a council meeting, it’s amazing that you can get six hours of a meeting in to two pages.

“As well as that, would someone have to be tasked with monitoring the camera and where would the line get drawn as to what can and can’t be broadcast?” he asked.

“While I welcome it, because I do think it’s important people see the goings on about how democracy works, at the same time, in the present situation we’re in with a very tight budget, maybe the money would be better spent on a few more important things and I would hate to see something like this actually costing the city money in the long-term.

“We have a major crisis in the city at the moment that maybe that money would be better off actually being spent on.

“I think we’ve a lot more important issues to discuss than a couple of cameras in a meeting like the housing crisis and the transport mess at the moment.

“Is this top of the agenda? I know it’s all about more and more people seeing what’s going on in City Hall but the public gallery is half-empty half the time and it’s only full when people want certain issues that are close to their own hearts,” said Cllr McNelis.