20 December 2012 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Comments reportedly made by a caller to the Joe Finnegan Show on Northern Sound local radio on Monday morning provoked an angry reaction when they were debated at that evening’s meeting of Monaghan Town Council, with some members describing them as an attack on the integrity of the authority’s elected membership.
Fine Gael’s David Maxwell told his colleagues that a caller who was critical of aspects of the cost of the event staged in the town centre earlier in the month to mark the formal switch-on of the Monaghan Christmas lights had alleged that a member of the Council had been paid for transporting the British music acts who performed on the occasion to and from the airport.
Colr Maxwell felt the comments were directed at Sinn Féin councillor Paul McGeown, who in a deeply felt contribution denied that he or any other Council member had received any payment for what had been voluntary assistance rendered to the organisation of the event in question.
It was agreed on Colr McGeown’s proposal, Fine Gael’s Tommy Hagan seconding, that the Cathaoirleach of the authority, Seamus Treanor, would respond to Northern Sound in defence of the members and in repudiation of the comments reportedly made.
Raising the matter under ‘Any Other Business’ towards the conclusion of Monday’s meeting, Colr Maxwell said he had heard a caller to the Joe Finnegan Show on Northern Sound that morning express criticism of the Monaghan Town Christmas lights event, and the expense the Town Council had gone to in relation to it. Colr Maxwell felt it should be pointed out that the Council had not organised this event – a number of people in the community did so.
The caller then made a statement that a member of the Council had gone to Dublin Airport to pick up the X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent singers who participated in the ceremony, took them to Monaghan and got paid for it. Colr Maxwell felt this could only mean Colr Paul McGeown, who he was sure did not get paid for doing this and had only done it for the good of the town.
“We help these organisations for the betterment and love of the town and we don’t get paid for it,” Colr Maxwell stated. He wasn’t happy with such unchallenged remarks being made on local radio.
Sean Conlon said this was an attack on the integrity of the elected members. Three of the Council members – Colr Maxwell, Colr McGeown and himself – had been volunteers on the day of the Christmas lights switch-on. They were there in a voluntary capacity reacting to a request from the organising committee. This was not a committee of the Town Council but a loose amalgam of people associated with the Chamber of Commerce.
He described what was broadcast on the radio as “popular hoorism”, a bit of rascality around taking potshots at elected representatives.
Colr Conlon added that it was one of the duties of the Cathaoirleach to protect the integrity of the elected members, and expressed admiration for the manner in which the Mayor of Monaghan Co Council, Hugh McElvaney, stood up for the members of that authority if their integrity was questioned.
Councillors regularly volunteered their services to such events as the St Patrick’s Day Parade and the Hallowe’en festival in the town – they went beyond “what the public eye sees”. They were often involved in weeks and weeks of preparation for these events that went beyond the call of a public representative.
This effort was put in by councillors as community activists, and many other non-elected people put in such effort as part of a partnership approach.
Stating that he had listened to the show Colr Maxwell referred to, Cathaoirleach Seamus Treanor said the person who had made the call had rang him [Cathaoirleach] previously to ask why Irish artists had not been engaged to perform at the Christmas lights event.
The Cathaoirleach pointed out that no comment from the public had come into the show in reaction to this item, and he personally would not have given it much attention. He was nearly disappointed that Colr Maxwell had mentioned it.
Colr Conlon said the comments had to be challenged.
Donal Sherry said it was important that the comments be responded to. People were only too willing to blame these things on politicians.
The Cathaoirleach pointed out that he was the only Council member present at the event in an official capacity – the other members were there voluntarily. He thought that some member of the committee who had organised the event should respond to the comments.
Colr Conlon: It is an attack on the integrity of every one of us.
Colr Sherry said the money spent on the event was taken up with him by a member of the public, and the Council was accused of throwing money at it. He complimented the many people who had come into town on the occasion to enjoy the Christmas lights switch-on on what was a particularly bad evening.
“Do we sit on our hands and organise nothing?” Colr Sherry asked.
Colr McGeown told the meeting that the Christmas lights event was planned for five months by five people meeting twice a week. The morning of the event he was in Church Square at 8.30.
Colr McGeown said his wife and another businessperson in the town went to the airport to collect the performers. “I was not near the airport on that occasion,” he pointed out.
He added that he had left the performers up to the airport in his car the next morning and gave up a day of work to do so. He had received no pay for this, and had received no payment for his contribution to any such events over the years – he did this for the young people of Monaghan Town, and if they were happy for the few hours the lights event was on then he was satisfied.
“I am not looking for any other reward,” Colr McGeown added. “For people to go on the radio and slate this Council is a disgrace.”
He asked if people did not want anything organised for Christmas. He was giving up his time and spending time away from his children to help at these events.
Colr McGeown pointed out that the performers told him they would be back to Monaghan in their own capacity in the future because of all the towns they had visited in Ireland Monaghan was the best. He also praised the young people who had contributed voluntarily to the success of the Christmas lights event.
Mary Carroll said that ordinary members of the public sometimes did not know as much about the background of these events as councillors did. When such people expressed an opinion contrary to what a councillor thought, they should not be abused for it.
“The ordinary member of the public is entitled to their opinions,” Colr Carroll added. “If their opinions are misguided, they should be gently shown where the truth lies – they should not be accused.”
Tommy Hagan stated, “If the critical people were asked to do this work for free and for nothing, you would see the answer you would get.”
Colr McGeown felt Northern Sound should be challenged on the matter. All of the Council members were being lied about. He proposed that the Cathaoirleach go on the radio in response and emphasise that not one councillor had received a penny for this.
“We are all being targeted,” Colr McGeown added.
Colr Hagan seconded Colr McGeown’s proposal.
Pádraigín Uí Mhurchadha said Colr McGeown gave of his time in many areas and didn’t do this for recompense in any way, shape or form. He did this work so the youth of the town could enjoy themselves. Colr Maxwell remarked that he would take criticism from the public, but what was said on the radio was incorrect and it went unchallenged.
Colr Sherry said there was nothing wrong with constructive criticism.

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