08 Aug 2022

Bright colours but no sound in Laois council offices

Bright colours but no sound in Laois council offices

Laois County Council County Hall in Portlaoise.

A funky paint job is underway in the corridors of Laois County Council, but councillors are fed up that the money is not being spent instead on fixing their broken microphones.

Decorators are painting orange and blue zigzag patterns on the way in to the council chambers as part of a renovation and energy upgrade.

However the chamber's sound system is waiting to be fixed for several years. It means that some councillors cannot be heard at all by anyone attending meetings remotely, including journalists, staff or councillors who are unwell and following Covid guidelines.

Cllr Willie Aird recalled being a young elected member at meetings with no microphones at all, with politicians finding a way around it.

“When I started in the courthouse, there were no microphones, but there was some shouting and roaring,” he said.

Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley held a brief standoff as the meeting began.

“I have no microphone. Not one of us had. This is going on for months, I’m sick to the back teeth. On principal I’m not moving. I’ll have to share between two colleagues,” she said, later relenting and moving seats.

Director of Services Donal Brennan said he will have an update in late July or August on the planned upgrade of the audio visual system and that will include new mics.

Cllr Aisling Moran said it must be sorted, adding that she is waiting a year for live streaming.

“If this is a public meeting, why not live stream it,” she said.

Mr Brennan replied that a new policy to live stream meetings to the public has not been agreed by all the councillors yet.  The Cathaoirleach Cllr Conor Bergin added that monthly council meetings are public and “anyone can walk in” to listen.

The topic reared its head an hour later when Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald said that remote connecting journalists could not hear councillors speaking.

Cllr Dwane Stanley said it was unacceptable to have to keep moving seats.

“With the colours being painted you’d want sunglasses, we want the basics,” she said.

“Who picked the colours?,” Cllr Ben Brennan asked.

“Caroline is on the committee,” said Cllr Aird.

“It’s nothing to do with me,” Cllr Dwane Stanley replied.

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