O’KEEFFE CLAIMS OVER 6,000 FOR CONFERENCE ATTENDANCES
With the news that Fine Gael has expelled a south Donegal councillor when he claimed double expenses for travelling to conferences in Cork and Kerry which took place on the same day, local Mitchelstown Fianna Fail councillor, Kevin O’Keeffe, has emerged as a prolific conference attendee, claiming over €6,000 expenses in this area.
The list of expenses published concern the year 2010 and it would seem that, of the four councillors representing the Fermoy/Mitchelstown area, only Cllr Pa O’Driscoll did not claim expenses or attend any conferences.
TOPPED THE LIST
Cllr Kevin O’Keeffe topped the list with over €6,000 claimed in conference expenses and attended conferences in Roscommon, Carlow, Sligo, and Tyrone. These included ‘The Douglas Hyde Summer School' (of Traditional Irish Music), a health and safety conference, a Kerry Environment Recognition conference and the William Carleton Summer School in Tyrone (celebrates the life and work of novelist William Carleton and is a venue for Irish arts, literature and history studies), to name just four.
Labour councillor, Noel McCarthy, claimed €2,485.87 for conference attendances. He travelled to Limerick for a conference on ‘Defamation for Councillors’ and also to Killarney for a conference entitled ‘Getting a Grip’ and then made his way to Westport for a conference on ‘Bogs management and development’.
Cllr Frank O’Flynn attended eight conference and claimed €1,890.86 in expenses. Cllr O’Flynn travelled to Letterkenny in Donegal for the ‘Colmcille Winter School’, which dealt with the role of small enterprises in overcoming the recession, and then to Skibbereen for a conference on ‘Time Management’.
While the conferences attended by Cork county councillors cover subjects such as planning, council budgets, waste and flood management, it remains a puzzle why a Cork county councillor would need to attend a conference entitled ‘ Clare Tourism’ or travel to Antrim for a conference on ‘Northern Tourism’.
Other conferences attended by local councillors included the infamous ‘Social media training for Councillors’ and ‘Managing stress and promoting positive Mental Health’ which, took place in Galway. If a councillor was worried about, for example, insurance, he could attend a conference entitled ‘The insurance salesman’s presentation Skill’, or he or she could attend the Tipperary International Festival of Peace’.
“Conferences are very important for councillors, they allow us to see what new developments are available and conferences also allow us to meet and network with people who could be of use in the future,” Cllr O’Flynn told The Avondhu.
GOING TO THE BOG
Cllr Noel McCarthy agrees that some conferences are not worth attending.
“I have the highest attendance record of any councillor in Cork County Council and I select conferences that are of benefit to me as a public representative and that will inform and educate so that I can use this information for the area I represent. For example, I attended a conference called ‘Getting a Grip’ and this was very informative as it dealt with the issue of drug awareness. As chairman of FREE, this conference was very positive and I learnt a lot,” Cllr McCarthy said.
However, The Avondhu asked Cllr McCarthy why a representative from the Fermoy/Mitchelstown area would attend a conference entitled ‘Bogs management and Development’ in Westport, Co Mayo?
“This conference was very important because it dealt with matters of flooding which I felt would be of benefit following representation I received from people in my area. The conference covered issues such as drainage and flood management and the effect the drainage of certain areas would have on the surrounding countryside,” Cllr McCarthy said.
Cllr Kevin O’Keeffe attended The Douglas Hyde Summer School of Traditional Irish Music, and the William Carleton Summer School of Irish arts, literature and history studies. Did these events add to the councillor’s knowledge and education and so benefit the people of his electoral area?
“These conferences are listed on Cork County Council preferred list and are fully vouched for. There was a number of political speakers at these events as well,” Cllr O’Keeffe said.
Cork County Council has now decided to publish online a list of councillors expenses and the conferences they attended, and, if you would like to see just what expenses and conferences your councillors have attended, then log on to www.corkcoco.ie.
Friday 27th May 4:07pm