Louth County Councillors walked out en-masse during Monday’s monthly council meeting with Drogheda councillor Joanna Byrne accusing Chief Executive Joan Martin of lying and undermining her own staff in overturning a public commitment they gave to provide a Rainbow crossing.
Louth Councillor Kevin Meenan proposed a walk-out of the monthly council meeting following a disagreement over the rainbow stripes at pedestrian crossings and his fellow councillors agreed as the meeting was brought to an abrubt halt.
Cllr Meenan said that he proposed the walk-out after Cllr Joanna Byrne had a disagreement with Louth County Manager Joan Martin.
“No-one was talking anymore. Councillors were just talking amongst themselves so I said we should stop,” said Cllr Meenan.
“I said we shouldn’t be here and some other councillors followed suit. We can’t operate without the County Manager.
“We all had items we wanted to raise but she wasn’t talking to us. We were 70 per cent of the way through the meeting.”
Cllr Meenan added: “It was our last meeting until September. It was surreal. It was just ridiculous.
“From our point of view, she had rendered the meeting ineffective so we couldn’t continue with the meeting.
“The general consensus is that there was no other option open to us other than that.”
Louth Councillor Maria Doyle said that she put in a notice of motion for Dundalk to have a crossing in celebration of Pride last April.
“The answer I got was that there were legal issues due to road safety and that we couldn’t have it,” she said.
“There was no collaboration from my point of view. Councillor Joanna Byrne had put in a similar request in Drogheda and got a similar response.
“I supported the walk out and I left the meeting. The issue of the crossings is almost like the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Cllr Doyle added: “I’d like better communication and better collaboration. Councillors are representing the public.
“At the same time Councillor John Sheridan noted that the council has been very helpful overall with the Pride Festival and it was very well organised.
Meanwhile the councillor at the centre of the row, Joanna Byrne, described Joan Martin’s behaviour as ‘deplorable’.
“Chief Executive, not only have you undermined your own staff in overturning a public commitment they gave to provide a Rainbow crossing, you have also undermined your own word in providing the Rainbow letters instead, in turn undermining my word to the people of Drogheda and the LGBTQ Community which leads to undermining the working relationship between Council officials and Councillors.”
Councillor Byrne emphasised the delay in responding to her queries for the people she represents was not only “disrespectful but lacked good manners”.
Whilst some disagreement followed between Chief Executive Joan Martin and Cllr Byrne, other Councillors rallied to support Cllr Byrne in her plight to get answers and explanations from the top table. At which point the Chief Executive completely shut down, refusing to even acknowledge points and questions coming from all elected members, held her head down and stayed silent.
A despaired Cllr Kevin Meenan asked the Chief Executive what the point was of Councillors remaining in the Chamber if she was unwilling to communicate with Councillors to which he received no response, leading to all Cllrs leaving the meeting.
Speaking to media after the meeting Cllr Byrne explained that leaving had not been her intention but the actions of the CE left her with no other option.
“Nobody likes to see a meeting disrupted in this way, I myself had further business to raise at later stages of the meeting but this is solely down to the actions of the CE. The CE blatantly refused to answer my queries in relation to the Council’s reluctance to support the LGBTQ Community and her complete disregard and unwillingness to communicate caused this issue. When there is no transparency, there is no trust, and when there’s no trust there’s no basis for a working relationship. Every Cllr present walked out today in frustration, that to me sends a clear message that the Chief Executive has damaged any credibility she may have held. It also shows solidarity from all Councillors to support our LGBTQ Community which is the positive side of the news story!”
When asked for a comment on the walkout the Dundalk Leader received the following reply from Louth County Council.
”The response at the moment is as follows:
‘No comment at this time.’