Council try to ban Facebook

Laois county councilors have tried to clamp down on public access to council meetings on the back of a recent water charges protest by introducing a social media ban.

Laois county councilors have tried to clamp down on public access to council meetings on the back of a recent water charges protest by introducing a social media ban.

Councillors last week received a copy of the revised standaing orders, the rules for governing councill meetings.

Director of services, Anna Marie Delaney said section 23 of the standing orders relating to the attendance of public and media at meetings had been amended to prohibit the use, during meetings, of social media to report on business being transacted.

Other changes included amending standing order number nine to include issuing the agenda by mail or electronic means.

While standing order number 16 requires the submission of motions at least ten clear days before the council meeting.

The bereavement protocol was also changed to provide an adjounrment of the meeting for 15 minutes and a minute’s silence observed in the event of the death of a family member of a councillor.

The council also tried to ban the use of mobile phones in the council chambers.

In defence of the new rules, Cathaoirleach John Joe Fennelly said there were members of the public in the gallery video recording a recent council meeting.

“We are all entitled to have our say in here and it is recorded in the minutes. I was in with Irish Water representatives during the protest and we couldn’t continue on with our meeting because of the noise level.

“It was all on Facebook the following day, I don’t think that’s right,” he said.

However, Cllr Jerry Lodge felt that the council would be unable to enforce most of the rules.

“Times have moved on,” he said.

“The radio station is here, they can immediately phone in if something happens, we have to adjust too.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Peader McEvoy pointed out that the council had their own Facebook page.

“We need social media. Laois County Council are on facebook themselves,” he said.

Following the councillors’ discussion, the ban on social media was removed from the standing orders, along with the use of mobile phones.