An apology was issued to Mayo County Councillor Seamus Weir at this week’s Health Service Executive west forum meeting in Merlin Park.
Incorrect information relating to Cllr Weir’s expenses for attending forum meetings was released by the executive to a Roscommon newspaper and subsequently picked up by local radio, and Cllr Weir had to go on air and defend himself.
There was a €1,700 discrepancy in the figures released by the HSE and the actual amount claimed by the Foxford councillor.
The initial figure released by the HSE in respect of Cllr Weir was in the region of €3,500 when in fact the Fine Gael representative claimed €1,800 for 2010.
The travel expenses are calculated depending on the size of the engine of the car the member drives.
A total of €50,868.96 was paid out by the HSE to west forum members in 2010, with Claremorris area representative Cllr Tom Connolly in receipt of €1,322.24 for that period, Cllr Austin Francis O’Malley, who lives outside Louisburgh and has the farthest to travel of all the Mayo councillors, received €2,032.28, while Ballina area representative Annie Mai Reape received the least of the Mayo councillors at €802.01.
In 2010 Cllr Weir attended six out of six meetings of the HSE west forum, Cllr Reape attended five, Cllr O’Malley attended five, and Cllr Connolly attended six. They also attended up to four committee meetings on top of these in Limerick and Manorhamilton.
The attendance by the Mayo representatives is extremely high in comparison to councillors from other counties, especially Donegal, where four out of the five councillors have been issued with letters by the HSE executive informing them that they have missed three meetings consecutively without issuing a formal apology to the forum.
There was extensive debate about this issue at Tuesday’s meeting where members were told that, should standing orders be implemented, these members would be automatically expelled from the forum. However, it was decided to commence implementing that rule from Tuesday’s meeting, giving those councillors who have been missing meetings a reprieve.
One Galway city councillor, Cllr Michael Crowe, only attended two out of 11 meetings since the new forum was convened in July 2009, and his Galway County Council colleague Malachy Noone the same.
The functional area of the Regional Health Forum, West covers the city councils of Limerick and Galway and the county councils of Clare, Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Limerick, Mayo, North Tipperary, Roscommon and Sligo.
It was decided at Tuesday’s meeting that the forum would be split up into two geographic areas for the purpose of meetings and a sub committee has now been set up to decide how best to divide the areas. Cllr Weir will represent Mayo on this committee and it is important that Mayo is kept in the same area as Galway, given the close links between the two counties when it comes to medical care and the fact that Mayo breast cancer patients must travel to the Galway centre of excellence for treatment.
Cllr Weir and Cllr Reape were fully supportive of the forum splitting up geographically, giving members a better opportunity to discuss local issues on a local basis. The forum will also continue to meet in full.