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Galway insomniacs and drunks will enjoy Council webcasting!

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From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Galway insomniacs and drunks will enjoy Council webcasting! Galway insomniacs and drunks will enjoy Council webcasting!

Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column by Dara Bradley

After a decade of dithering, Galway City Council may be on the brink of embracing technology to live stream its meetings.

Eight years ago, councillors called for their Ordinary meetings to be live-streamed to the public.

This was because they were peed-off that minutes of Council meetings did not offer a true reflection of what they felt had happened at meetings.

By broadcasting live, they argued, the public would get an accurate reflection of the workings of local politicians. Warts and all.

The matter was raised again in November 2017. At that stage, it was estimated that the installation of equipment to allow Council meetings to be broadcast would be €35,000.

Like everything else, inflation means the true cost today would be multiples of that.

Ultimately, the last City Council baulked at the idea. Cost was one reason. Another argument was a fear the Council could be sued if one of the 18 councillors, or officials, made a defamatory remark about a business or person.

This was a red herring. That risk exists regardless of whether offending defamatory remarks are broadcast live or not, although live-streaming would certainly increase the damage, and therefore the compensation payable for any said remark.

It was an excuse trotted out to resist change.

The current Council, which has less than a year remaining, has started considering the idea again.

Like many things, Covid has focused the mind. And Mayor of Galway Eddie Hoare can be credited for putting the issue back on the agenda since taking office.

The matter was raised at the latest Corporate Policy Group meeting. It was confirmed by Council officials Brian Barrett and Ailish Rohan that an application for funding of webcasting/live streaming of Council meetings has been submitted to Government.

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has refused a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from this newspaper to release that request for funding – at least until it has deliberated on it.

The Department has, however, advised the City Council of the “enormous potential for the use of technology to strengthen local democracy, in particular to increase accessibility and transparency of local government in action”.

Pre-Covid, the public gallery at City Hall was nearly always empty at monthly meetings on Mondays, except when contentious issues were being discussed.

Now that all Council meetings post-pandemic have been either online or hybrid, to facilitate staff and elected members who do not feel safe attending, the continued exclusion of the public from tuning-in remotely can’t be justified.

Former Labour leader Pat Rabbitte memorably described RTÉ’s Oireachtas Report programme as one watched by ‘insomniacs and drunks’.

By live-streaming its meetings, Galway City Council would not only entertain the city’s drunks and insomniacs but it would introduce transparency to City Hall, too.

Pictured: Former Labour leader Pat Rabbitte once described RTÉ’s Oireactas Report as one watched by ‘insomniacs and drunks’.

 

 

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