07 Jul 2022

'You can get the guards to stop me' Laois councillor demands access to offices

'You can get the guards to stop me' Laois councillor demands access to offices

Laois County Council County Hall in Portlaoise.

A councillor says it will take An Garda Síochána to remove her from Laois County Council offices, where she expects to be able to meet staff face to face immediately after Covid-19 restrictions ease.

The local authority has said that normal access that was given to county councillors, to talk to staff at their desks and push for issues on behalf of constituents, is not resuming even if the Government decides to lift restrictions on October 22.

Sinn Féin Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley from Portlaoise says "nobody is going to stop me". 

"If the public health advice is restrictions can be lifted when are we allowed back in? We are the directors of Laois County Council. We are entitled to the access we had previously. I'm democratically elected. I'll wear my mask and stand two metres from officials but I will not be deterred from meeting them. 

"I'll be going into county hall and nobody is going to stop me. I won't be meeting by appointment in the chamber. I'll be going to their desk and nothing is going to stop me. Staff don't have access to their computers in the chamber. you can get the guards to stop me," she said.

Laois County Council CEO John Mulholland said it will be "okay someday".

"It's unfortunate that this is adversarial. It will be okay some day to restore everything to normal. But we have a bit to go yet. It is difficult, particularly when unions are involved. I wouldn't want you to think there is any resistance, but we have to ensure safety of our staff. 

"I understand the frustrations and difficulties. They are shared in our staff, none of us can conduct business the way we did. The value of face to face meetings cannot be underestimated. But we must recognise that individuals have fears. We have 400 staff, that is not easy to manage," the council chief said.

Director of Service for HR is Donal Brennan also noted that staff may choose to continue to work remotely for one day a week.

"It's up to management to minimise risk to staff. We had taken steps and started wearing masks ahead of the legal requirement. Planning and housing is open by appointment and that will continue for the public. We've found it to be the best way to manage. We will have blended working in 2022," he said.

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