News & Current Issues
Here are some of the current issues.
THE FISCAL Stability Treaty presents us with a stark choice: vote ‘yes’ for long-term austerity, economic stagnation, unemployment and emigration, or vote ‘no’ for a programme of economic stimulus with hope for the future, Mr Thomas Pringle T.D. told a public meeting organised by the Peoples Movement in Sligo this week.
The Donegal deputy said “The Treaty specifically subordinates the Irish state to the economic programme laid down by the core euro states. It outlaws deficit financing, even when such is appropriate in either a Keynesian or a socialist model.
“If it had applied in the Thirties and Fifties, the Great Depression would have been permanent, and Seán Lemass’s Second Programme for Economic Expansion would never have happened.” he said.
The Vice-President of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, Mr Mick O’Reilly, who also addressed the meeting said “The proposed new Treaty is in reality an austerity treaty – it is an undemocratic attempt to institutionalise austerity across Europe. Its ‘Fiscal Compact’ would deny the right of member state governments to run a ‘structural’ budget deficit of more than 0.5%. This would remove the democratic right of national parliaments to decide national budgets, with that power shifting to the unelected European Commission and European Court of Justice. This would be a fundamental transfer of power away from elected governments.”
Cllr Declan Bree, who presided at the meeting said “The imposition in the treaty of a permanent right wing economic ideology; the limitations on social investment; the subservient position of our Oireachtas; and the prioritisation of the needs of the banking sector are clearly unacceptable and must be rejected. It will tie the hands not only of this government but of all governments into the foreseeable future as regards economic policy.”
SUPPORTING A motion tabled by Cllr Sean MacManus relating to the Borough Council's Finance Department, Cllr Declan Bree said "there can be no justification for transferring the Finance Department from the Town Hall to the County Council."
"I have been approached by staff who have told me that the County Manager is planning to close down the Borough Finance Department here in City Hall and move it to the County Council offices in Riverside." he continued. "In fact people whom I met in the street over the past number of weeks have been able to tell me about this plan.
"It speaks volumes about the way the County Manger does his business when we have to depend on people on the streets to tell us of his plans. Again the Manager is treating the elected members of this Borough Council with utter contempt. Has he never heard of openness and transparency and local democracy.
"It is very clear to me and to the people of this town what this is all about. Sligo County Council is on the verge of bankruptcy – and it’s desperate to get it’s claw’s on the resources and finances of this Borough Council.
"Over the past number of years members of Sligo County Council borrowed millions and voted for annual budgets presented by the County Manager that were absurd and unattainable. As a result the County Council is over €70 million in debt and its debt is growing at the rate of €60,000 a week.
"On the other hand the members of this Borough Council acted in a responsible manner and rejected recommendations from the County Manger to borrow millions of Euro. If we had adopted the recommendations of the County Manger this Council would now be bankrupt and facing abolition.
"We all know that certain elements want to see Sligo County Council take over the running of the Borough Council to pillage and plunder and take every cent out of the town and squander it like they did with their own resources." Cllr Bree said.
"There can be no justification for transferring the Finance Department from the Town Hall to the County Council. It’s functioning extremely well and it continues to take in significant income despite the recession.
"We have to make it clear to the County Manager that he is not to interfere with Sligo Borough Council. This year we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the foundation of the Borough. We also celebrate a long tradition of good local government in this town. We have to make it clear that we will defend what is ours. The citizens of this town would never forgive us if we allowed our services to be taken over by the County Council." said Cllr Bree.
RESPONDING TO A report from the County Manager on the employment of a consultant to observe the behaviour of councillors at Council meetings Cllr Declan Bree told this months meeting of Sligo Borough Council that everyone in this community knows where this stems from. "It has nothing got to do with health and safety or bullying or inappropriate behaviour. That’s only a red herring.
"This all stems from the disgraceful recommendation that this Borough Council should hand over €1.3 million of public funds to a development company to assist them build a bridge to their private development on the Glasshouse site. This is what it’s about
"The County Manager was incensed when the recommendation to hand over €1.3 million was rejected and the matter was highlighted.
"At the Borough Council meeting when the recommendation was discussed I made it clear that there was significant public concern about the fact that certain senior officials and councillors wanted to hand over €1.3 million of public monies to a private development company to assist them build a bridge to their private development at the Glasshouse Hotel and I said this is considered daylight robbery and the public won’t stand for it.
"The County Manager then set up his kangaroo court in an attempt to divert attention from the real issue, the recommendation to hand €1.3 million of public monies to private developers. And when that didn’t work he decided to put the consultant from Wicklow on his payroll." said Cllr Bree.
"However I want to make it abundantly clear to the County Manger that I stand over everything I said. I have a mandate from the people of this community to protect their interests. And while they continue to vote for me I will speak on their behalf. I will not be muzzled by the Manager or his agents. The recommendation that the Council should hand over €1.3 million to a private development company to build a footbridge can only be described as scandalous. I will not apologise for telling the truth.
"It’s a public scandal that such a recommendation was ever made and then for the County Manager to suggest to councillors that 'it represents excellent value for money'. The fact is that that the development company applied for planning permission for a development which included a hotel, apartments, retail units and a pedestrian footbridge and it is a condition of the planning permission that the bridge shall be completed by the developers and open to public access within six months of the occupation of any of the apartments.
"I believe it’s now time for the County Manager to explain to the people of Sligo why a recommendation was made to the Borough Council that it should hand over €1.3 million to developers." Cllr Bree concluded.
AT ITS MONTHLY meeting the majority of members of Sligo County Council, in a bizarre decision, voted down a motion that information be provided on the sale of Council lands at Lisnalurg.
Proposing the motion which he had tabled Cllr Declan Bree said "In 2010 the Local Government Auditor pointed out in his annual report that the Council borrowed €11.2 million to purchase lands at Lisnalurg, Sligo.
"He pointed out that the Council subsequently sold some of the lands in question to a number of purchasers for the sum of approximately €9.6 million.
"By paying that €9.6 million off the loan, the Council should then have had an outstanding €1.6 million balance to pay off in addition to whatever interest was owed.
"However the Auditor discovered that when the Council received the €9.6million for the sale of the lands, only €5.2million of that sum was used to reduce the loan.
"I and indeed many more people want to know what happened to the remaining €4.4 million which the Council received for the sale of the land.
"That money should have been used to pay off the loan but it appears to have been used for some other purpose.
"Where is the €4.4 million? What was it used for? Why was it not used to pay off the loan? If the money was used for other purposes who authorised it? Why is there a reluctance on the part of the County Manager to provide a full report on this matter?" asked Cllr Bree.
"Because the money was not used to pay off the loan the Council has had to pay significant interest charges – we know from the Auditors Report that the accrued interest on the outstanding loan up to the end of 2008 amounted to €3.3 million.
"In May 2010 this Council asked to be provided with a comprehensive report relating to the purchase of the 83 acres of land at Lisnalurg, including the reason for purchasing the lands, the amount of monies borrowed to purchase the lands, the subsequent reason for recommending the sale of 49 acres of the lands and the reason for failing to use the proceeds of the sale to reduce the loans and interest payable, and the details of the accrued interest paid on the outstanding loans. However to date the County Manager has still not provided this Council with the report it sought.
"What we now need in Sligo is transparency and accountability. It is unacceptable that a sum of €4.4 million is unaccounted for and that no comprehensive report has been presented to the elected members.
Cllr Bree then proposed the following motion which was seconded by Cllr Sean MacManus: “Noting that it its meeting in May 2010 Sligo County Council adopted the following motion ‘That the Council be provided with a comprehensive report relating to the purchase of 83 acres of land at Lisnalurg, including the reason for purchasing the lands, the amount of monies borrowed to purchase the lands, the subsequent reason for recommending the sale of 49 acres of the lands and the reason for failing to use the proceeds of the sale to reduce the loans and interest payable, and the details of the accrued interest paid on the outstanding loans to date.’; and concerned that the comprehensive report has to date not been provided; this Council instructs the County Manger to provide the comprehensive report for consideration at the April 2012 monthly meeting of the Council and further the Council resolves that in the event of the comprehensive report not being provided that the entire matter be forwarded to the Committee on Public Accounts for investigation.” The motion was defeated by the combined votes of the Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail councillors.
AT IT'S MONTHLY meeting the members of Sligo County Council unanimoulsy adopted a motion tabled by Cllr Declan Bree,opposing the centralisation of the driving licence system.
Speaking to the motion Cllr Bree said "Local authorities have an exemplary track record in the management, operation and production of driver licences since the inception of the system 50 years ago. According to the Value for Money Audit, public satisfaction with the delivery of service has been recorded as satisfactory by 95% of users.
"However it would now appear that the responsibility for driver licences will be taken away for local authorities and transferred to the auspices of the Road Safety Authority and that the system will be centralised.
"I fear that the centralisation of the system runs the risk of a substantially inferior service being delivered to the public in general and to licence holders and applicants in particular.
"Local public representatives can confirm that the recent centralisation of the Medical Card system hasn’t worked and it is causing significant difficulties for the public.
"No coherent rationale has been presented for the proposal to centralise and to my knowledge there has been no cost benefit analysis carried out. In addition no public consultation has taken place on the matter.
"Employees and the trade unions representing Council staff quite rightly see this as another example of the dismantling of local authority services."
Cllr Bree then proposed the following motion which was adopted by the Council: “Recognising: (a) that local authorities have an exemplary track record in the management, operation and production of driver licences since the inception of the system almost fifty years ago; (b) that the centralisation of the system runs the risk of a substantially inferior service being delivered to the public; (c) that no coherent rationale has been presented for the centralisation of the system; (d) that no public consultation has taken place on the matter; Sligo County Council calls on the government to engage in constructive discussion and consultation with stakeholders and with the IMPACT trade union representing local authority staff, with a view to delivering efficiencies in the operation of the driver licence function.”
"THIS PROPOSAL from the County Manager to increase the Councils overdraft from €11 million to €14 million clearly confirms that this Council is on the verge of bankruptcy. It also speaks volumes about the manner in which the finances of this council have been managed." said Cllr Declan Bree at themonthly meeting of Sligo County Council.
"In March last year, just 12 months ago, the County Manger urged councillors to increase the overdraft from €5 million to €7.5 million.
"Despite such a significant increase, the Manager came back to councillors in September and urged them to further increase the overdraft, from €7.5 million to €11 million. Now he is asking councillors to further increase the overdraft from €11 million to €14 million. This is utter madness. It is totally unsustainable.
"This Council is over €70 million in debt. And is it any wonder? For the past number of years the County Manager has consistently asked councillors to adopt annual budgets that were based on fantasy, budgets that bore no resemblance to reality, budgets that were absurd and unattainable, budgets that led to massive deficits in the revenue account each year. And to make up for the shortfall each year the County Manger then urges councillors to take out loans and increase overdrafts. Unfortunately the majority of councillors dance to the County Managers tune and they have constantly voted for budgets and overdrafts which have brought this Council to the edge of the abyss.
"Indeed its only 8 or 10 weeks ago since we had Fine Gael councillors in this Chamber proposing a vote of confidence in the County Manager. Where else but in Sligo would we witness such a scenario?
"What is happening here is clearly unsustainable. While other councils may have had difficulties, the fact of the matter is that Sligo County Council in the only Council in the entire country where the revenue deficit is increasing year by year. This Council is now on the verge of bankruptcy." Cllr Bree said.
The motion to increase the overdraft was adopted with the combined votes of Fine Gael,Labour and Fianna Fail councillors. Councillors Declan Bree and Sean MacManus voted against the proposal.
A MOTION proposing that Sligo County Council work with other local authorities from the region to oppose the practice of hydraulic fracturing/fracking was unanimosusly adopted at the monthly meeting of Sligo County Council.
Proposing the motion Cllr Declan Bree said "Following the decision by this Council last month to call on the government to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing/fracking, councillors and council officials from Leitrim, Sligo, Fermanagh and Cavan were invited to attend a meeting on the issue in Enniskillen. The meeting was hosted by Fermanagh District Council.
"Those from Sligo in attendance at the Enniskillen meeting were Cllr Jerry Lundy, Acting Director of Services Mr Tom Brennan and I.
"The meeting agreed to invite Minister Pat Rabbitte and Northern Minister Arlene Foster to a further meeting of councillors from the four councils in Enniskillen in the near future.
"The meeting also agreed that the draft motion on our agenda today should be circulated to each of the four councils for consideration and adoption.
"By adopting the motion it gives the Councils a mandate to work together and with other local authorities in the region to oppose the practice of hydraulic fracturing/fracking.
"I formally move the motion: “Recognising the dangers that hydraulic fracturing/fracking poses to water quality, to human safety and the general environment, this council resolves to work together with other local authorities in the region, to oppose the practice of hydraulic fracturing/fracking and we call on the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Irish Government to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing/fracking North and South of the border.”
“THE CAMPAIGN against Household and Water Taxes and Septic Tank Charges has been building huge momentum over the past couple of months. Everywhere the message is clear; people cannot and will not pay the debts of bankers and property developers”, said Cllr Declan Bree when he spoke at a Protest Demonstration against household and water taxes, in O’Connell Street, on Saturday afternoon last.
Earlier over 400 people marched from the GPO to Minister of State, John Perry’s office in Old Market Street, where a letter of protest from the Sligo Campaign against all Household and Water Taxes was delivered.
Cllr Bree told the protesters that only a few years back the Fine Gael leader Mr Enda Kenny said that it was morally unjust and unfair to tax a person’s home.
“This is the same Enda Kenny who is now proposing to impose a tax on everyone’s home in this country.” said Cllr Bree.
“Mr Kenny described a household charge as ‘a vampire tax in that it drives a stake through the heart of home ownership’.
“And that is exactly what Mr Kenny and his colleagues in Fine Gael and Labour are attempting to impose - a vampire tax that will increase from €100 to €800 within two year – a vampire tax that will crucify households and families the length and breath of this country.
“And Mr Kenny and his cohorts in the Labour Party propose to use the monies raised by this vampire tax, to pay off the private debts of the speculators, the developers, the bankers and the bondholders – the vampires who have sucked the life blood out of our nation and out of our people.
“Today we are telling Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore – and we are telling their local Oireachtas colleagues, John Perry, Tony McLoughlin, Imelda Henry, Susan O’Keeffe and Michael Comiskey, that we are not going to be bullied or browbeaten by their threats – that we are going to stand united – that we will not register for this vampire tax and that we will not pay this unjust tax.” said Cllr Bree.
AT ITS monthly meeting the members of Sligo County Council, by majority vote, adopted a motion proposed by Cllr Declan Bree, calling on the government to rescind its decision to impose a Household Tax
Addressing the meeting Cllr Bree said "A number of years ago while speaking in the Dail Enda Kenny said it was morally unjust and unfair to tax a person’s home. Mr Kenny likened such a charge to ‘a vampire tax in that it drives a stake through the heart of home ownership.
"However today Enda Kenny and the Fine Gael/Labour coalition are attempting to impose a household tax which is just another device to make the majority pay for the bank bailout. Ireland has a high rate of home ownership with 80% of the population owning their own house or apartment.
"This new tax has absolutely nothing to do with improving Council services – the proceeds will go towards the bailout of bankers and developers, for which ordinary people are being bled dry.
"At last months meeting of this Council we were clearly advised by officials that the household tax not would not provide any additional funds for the Council but would in fact create an extra burden for the Council." said Cllr Bree.
"The Household Tax is extremely unpopular. In the face of this unpopularity, Fine Gael and Labour are trying to threaten us with fines and sanctions to make us pay up.
"What the government is attempting to impose is not a property tax in the real sense – one which would be levied on the wealth and assts held by the wealthiest sections of society. A real property tax would make sure those who own real wealth would be obliged to pay more taxes. Instead what is being imposed is simply a home tax.
"This new tax is unfair, unjust, immoral and must be resisted. I therefore propose the following: 'Recognising that the new Household Charge is unfair and unjust; and aware that the Charge will not result in any additional funds for local authorities and in fact will be a burden on this Council and other local authorities; Sligo County Council calls on the Government to rescind its decision to impose the Charge.'" Cllr Bree's motion was seconded by Cllr Sean MacManus.
AT ITS monthly meeting Sligo County Council unanimously adopted a motion tabled by Cllr Declan Bree calling on the government to reverse its proposed cuts in Community Employment Schemes
Proposing the motion Cllr Bree said "As part of the recent Budget Minister Joan Burton cut the training and materials grant for Community Employment Schemes from €1,500 to €500 per participant.
"The cuts not only limits training opportunities for community employment workers, but puts the future of schemes in jeopardy as they struggle to pay for rent, insurance, heating, electricity and basic materials.
"Additional payments for workers on social welfare including single parents and those in receipt of disability were also targeted by Minister Burton.
"Community Employment schemes provide a very important and valued contribution to social employment and to training for unemployed people. In addition many schemes provide vital community services. In areas of disadvantage, community employment is often the only access people have to work, training and education
"Today 2,463 Community Employment Scheme workers are employed in health and social services, 3,592 work in environmental schemes, 14,000 work in the community sector with another 272 in support tourism.
"In essence Community Employment has effectively become the labour force for the community and voluntary sectors.
"In this context the decision of Labour and Fine Gael, to undermine and dismantle the Community Employment Schemes must be opposed and the savage cutbacks reversed.
"I therefore propose the following motion:'Recognising the significant benefits of Community Employment Schemes to local communities and to CE participants, this Council calls on Minister Joan Burton and the Government to immediately reverse the proposed cuts in Community Employment Schemes.'”
DESPITE IT being €77million in the red. losing €7,000 a day and facing abolition, the Fine Gael members of Sligo County Council at its monthly meeting voted down a motion tabled by Cllr Declan Bree proposing that the Standing Orders of the Council be suspended so as to allow councillors to discuss the financial crisis and the recent meeting with Environment Minister Phil Hogan.
In proposing his motion Cllr Bree said "The meeting with the Minister was hugely important, not only with regard to the Councils finances but also with regard to the future of the Council.
"In fact we have correspondence before us today from the Ministers office expressing his concern and pointing out that failure to adopt a balanced budget has not only sever impacts on the community but can also result in the dissolution of the Council and the appointment of a Commissioner to carry out the Council’s functions.
"This is the most serious issue facing the Council for decades if not since it's foundation
I therefore propose: 'That Standing Orders be suspended to allow the Council to discuss the outcome of the meeting with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Mr Phil Hogan T.D. regarding the financial crisis in the Council, which took place in Dublin on the 31st of January.'
Cllr Bree's motion was defeated by 11 votes to 7 with 2 abstentions
THIS IS AN issue that if we don't organise an opposition, in less than two years we will be facing major household taxes, the government's own figures are €800 for property and €500 in water taxes, said Clare Daly T.D. when she addressed a capacity crowd at a Public Meeting in Sligo's Glasshouse Hotel, organsised by the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes.
Other speakers at the event were: Dr Brian O' Boyle, Cllr Declan Bree, Mr Seamus O'Boyle and Mr John Gallagher.
Ms Daly told almost 300 people who attended the meeting that the government wanted citizens to act as their agents, to get information on properites so that additional charges could be intruduced. "Less than 5% of the population have registered and we're already half way to the deadline. There will be a huge problem for the government if people don't register. The citizens of Ireland need to stand together, we won't be the lambs of Europe" she said to huge applause from the audienace.
An appeal was made for support for the campaign's first public protest which will take place outside Sligo's GPO on Saturday 25th of February at 1.00.p.m.
SLIGO COUNTY Council cannot survive without a significant change in management and a major financial bailout Cllr Declan Bree told the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan T.D., when a deputation from the Council met with the Minister on Wednesday 1st of February
The all party deputation from Sligo County Council met with the Minister to discuss the Council’s financial crisis.
The meeting took place in Leinster House just weeks after it was confirmed in a Local Government Auditor’s Report that Sligo County Council was in the red to the tune of almost €77 million with its deficit growing out of control
The deputation which was led by the Cathaoirleach of the Council Cllr Michael Fleming also included councillors Gerard Mullaney, Hubert Keaney, Declan Bree, Jim McGarry, Sean MacManus and Patsy Barry. The Acting County Manger Mr Tom Kilfeather and the Council’s Head of Finance Ms Marie Leydon were also in attendance.
In his submission to Minister Hogan, Cllr Declan Bree said:
“Over the past number of years I have been consistently pointing out at Council meetings that the draft budgets presented to the elected Council by the County Manager bore no resemblance to reality.
“I pointed out that the budgets were absurd and unattainable and indeed I also pointed out that the elected council had an obligation both legal and moral, to ensure that in so far as possible that sound systems of financial management were in place in the Council.
“However, despite the spiralling debt, the County Manager continued to implement his style of management with the silent acquiescence of the great majority of councillors and as a result, today, Sligo County Council stands on the verge of bankruptcy.
“Even as late as last month, the majority of the elected members of Sligo County Council voted for yet another of the County Managers budget. A Budget similar to budgets presented to us in earlier years – a budget which could only be described as another work of fantasy, which will lead to yet another huge deficit at the end of 2012.
“In addition I would point out that information relating the Council’s finances which the elected council is entitled to have was consistently withheld from us over the years.
“It was impossible for councillors like me to scrutinize what was happening with regards to the finances. The record will show that when specific information relating to the finances was sought by the elected Council it was either not provided at all, or it was provided on a drip feed basis.
“Openness and transparency was anathema when it came to dealing with the finances of the Council.
“We now know that the Management of the Council committed millions of Euro to numerous projects despite the fact that the Council did not have the financial resources to cover the costs.
“We know this because the Management had to eventually seek approval from the elected Council to borrow millions of Euro to pay for the projects.
“Indeed when the most recent loan of €15 million was authorised in July 2010 councillors were told that it was to be applied to a number of items including the €7.5 million Revenue Account Deficit.
“However in 2011 when the elected council received the annual financial report we discovered that none of the loan was applied to the revenue deficit and that the deficit had in fact increased further to almost €10million.
“I understand that when Council officials sought approval for the loan it was also indicted to the Ministers Offices that portion of the loan was to be used to reduce the revenue account deficit.
“So in this context it would appear that senior staff in the Department of the Environment, who should have been watching, either didn’t take note of, or recognise, or appreciate the fact that the finances of Sligo County Council were spiraling out of control.
“I have to admit that I am at a loss to understand how or why certain senior civil servants in the Department of the Environment gave the thumbs up for all requests from the County Manger for loan approval and for the Council’s increasing overdraft facilities.
“Now Sligo County Council finds itself in dire financial circumstances.
“While the County Manger has not said it - I believe that the Council is running up a deficit in its revenue account of approximately €7,000 every single day, seven days a week.
“It is my opinion that as a result of gross incompetence and consistent mismanagement Sligo County Council now finds itself in a position which is unsustainable.
“In my opinion the Council cannot survive without a significant change in management and a major financial bailout.” Cllr Bree told the Minister.
The Minister in his response to the deputation particularly referred to the €15 million loan which was approved in 2010 and said the Department had been advised that portion of it was to be used to reduce the revenue deficit. He said he was concerned that none of it had been used to reduce the deficit and he said Sligo was the only Council in the country with such a revenue deficit.
The Minister made it clear that the Council was obliged to adopt a balanced budget and he said he had written to the Council and had drawn attention to the consequences that faced the Council, including the ultimate sanction. The Minister said that Department officials will engage with Council officials on the ground. He said he wanted proposals from the Council with a view to addressing the financial crisis.
JUST ONE WEEK after it was confirmed that Sligo County Council was in the red to the tune of almost €77 million with its deficit growing out of control, it has now been revealed that the Council has been paying in excess of €800,000 per year renting office and storage space.
In documentation released by Council officials this week in response to a motion tabled by Cllr Declan Bree, it is admitted that the Council has been paying rent for 13 premises in Sligo including €193,448 per year for office accommodation on Cleveragh Road; €164,89 per year for offices in the Cleveragh Retail Park and €69,252 per year for offices in Old Market Street.
“Given the dire financial position of the Council over the past number of years I find it amazing that the County Manager would spend such excessive amounts of money renting private properties”, Cllr Declan Bree said today.
“I sought this information at a Council meeting a year ago - back in January 2011. I specifically proposed at the time that the Council be provided with a report, including the identity of each property rented by the Council, the purpose for which each property is used by the Council, the annual rent paid for each property and the rent paid per square ft, and the date on which the rental agreement was entered into in respect of each property.
“It has taken the County Manager 12 months to pull together the information we sought and needless to say this doesn’t surprise me. At our most recent meeting we learned from the Local Government Auditor’s report that the Council’s Registers of lands and buildings have not been maintained properly. With this type of management is it any wonder that the Council is in financial crisis.
“In 2008 the Council had a budget deficit on its revenue account of €4.2 million. In 2009 the budget deficit was €3.2 million, in 2010 the budget deficit was €2.4 million and all the indications are that the Council’s budget deficit for last year will be approximately €3 million. This is a total of €11.8 million deficit on the revenue account alone. Yet, at the same time the County Manger was paying out over three quarters of a million euro each year on rents. It’s incredible. Would this be allowed happen in any other County Council in the country? It’s as if the Management of Sligo County Council was living in a parallel universe.” said Cllr Bree.
“Now, with the Council on the verge of bankruptcy I understand that the County Manager is proposing to terminate some of the rentals. It’s yet another case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.” said Cllr Bree
HYDRAULIC FRACTURING or “fracking” is a technique for extracting gas from deep within shale rock and coal beds. The process involves using high pressure to inject massive volumes of water, plus sand, plus chemicals into dense rock formations, said Cllr Declan Bree, when he proposed a motion at this months meeting of Sligo County Council calling for a ban on Fracking.
"The outgoing Government awarded licences to a number of companies to explore for commercial gas in the Lough Allen basin and the Clare basin. The Lough Allen Basin covers parts of counties Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh, Mayo, Monaghan, Tyrone and Roscommon." he said.
"The dangers that fracking poses to water quality, to human safety and to the general environment has been highlighted in the media and by environmentalists in many parts of the world.
"France has banned the use of fracking and last year the Quebec Provincial government put a stop to Shale gas exploration in Quebec until a full environmental study can be done on the controversial drilling technique. Six months ago New Jersey became the first State in the USA to ban fracking." Cllr Bree said.
"In a study requested by the European Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, scientists conclude and I quote that "at a time when sustainability is key to future operations it can be questioned whether the injection of toxic chemicals in the underground should be allowed, or whether it should be banned as such a practice would restrict or exclude any later use of the contaminated layer... and as long-term effects are not investigated."
"What we in Ireland need now, is not to indulge the greed of the oil and gas companies who will do anything to get further profit out of the ground, What we need is investment in clean, safe and sustainable energy that can provide for people’s needs and protect the environment.
"If we have significant gas resources underground, it will only go up in value over time, and we can surely wait until such time as there is an acceptable and environmentally safe method of extracting it."
Cllr Bree proposed the following amended motion "That Sligo County Council calls on the government to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing /fracking and that the Council commence the process of amending the County Development Plan so as to ban the process of hydraulic fracturing/fracking in County Sligo." The motion was seconded by Cllr Sean MacManus and was unanimously adopted.