One councillor declared the declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency last month by Mayo County Council as “tantamount to terrorism.”
Fine Gael Cllr Neil Cruise raised the issue of the declaration during the adoption of the minutes of the January meeting of the council, at their February meeting this week.
The declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency was put forward as a notice of motion by Independent Councillor Mark Duffy last month and was passed, following the defeat of a counter-motion when it was put to a vote by councillors, by a single vote.
The councillors were informed that the motion will stand and is deemed valid for six months, by members of the council executive.
Putting across his view, Cllr Cruise argued that the council did not have the legislative right to declare a climate emergency and therefore the vote was invalid.
He argued that the issue should have been put before the council’s Environment, Climate Action, Agriculture and Emergency Services Strategic Policy Committee (SPC ) - before it was brought to the council.
Responding, Cllr Duffy asked would that mean that going forward, every issue or motion that a councillor wanted to raise - be it on roads or housing - would now have to go through an SPC before coming before the full council.
Cllr Cruise said he had received a lot of correspondence on the issue, including from the IFA, who told him they feared, by making such a declaration, that further restrictions on agriculture and infrastructure projects could come alongside such a declaration.
Cllr Cruise said that the declaration could be dangerous and divisive and that he felt the motion sent out an awful message from Mayo County Council.
He said: "We are a rural county and my effort today is to invalidate this motion because it is dangerous and divisive. I am looking at the substantive issue, which is, we are a highly rural country on the western seaboard and I would say we are carbon neutral at worst.
"Declaring a climate and biodiversity emergency in a county such as this is tantamount to terrorism."
Fianna Fáil council whip, Cllr Damien Ryan, said that a number of councillors were confused at the end of last month's meeting and that when the six-month time period is up, he will be raising the issue.
He said: "When the six months are up there will be a counter-proposal on this and its entirety, declaring a climate emergency in a county on the west coast of Ireland is a step too far.”
Continuing, he said that it is important to do the right thing and nobody is reneging on their climate and environmental responsibilities, but a more robust debate on the issue is needed.
Moving to allay some of the fears raised by councillors, Mayo County Council, director of services John Condon, told the meeting that the SPC had met last Friday where the motion was discussed.
He said that the SPC would put together a subgroup to come up with what will be done regarding climate issues.
"They will appoint a sub group to look at all things like the county development plan and other issues. They will come up with recommendations and then they will be cleared by the SPC and will be brought back before the full council.
"Nothing will be implemented until a further vote of the council takes place, in a sense, nothing will happen before it comes back before the council.
"The fears that Cllr Cruise has raised, cannot come into being until this council put it into being and I don’t think that will happen without serious consideration," said Mr Condon.
He did add that no matter if the council decide to revoke the declaration in six months time - the council is still committed to the national climate plan and will address climate change issues.