'It's Fianna Fáil you should have been in,' Longford Councillor is told

The upcoming deadline for local councillors to submit their interests in various  property and commercial activities drew a light-hearted exchange at last week's county council meeting.

 At the start of each year politicians must list all of their interests under the terms of the Local Government Act 2001.

The declaration of interests, which has to be made by all elected to public office, is designed to ensure transparency so that politicians are not seen to be motivated by private interests they have in property or commercial enterprise.

The concept behind the annual declaration is to underpin guidelines  for what councillors must do if a potential conflict of interest arises while they are performing their role as an elected representative.

A further key facet of the Act spells out the law,  making it very clear that they cannot seek any private benefit for their public work.

It likewise formed part of a much talked about RTÉ Investigates programme in December 2015 which led to the resignation of Sligo-based county councillor Joe Queenan.

It was that backdrop which led Cllr John Browne to seek clarity on just how elected members should go about filling out their declaration forms.

The Longford publican asked Head of Finance John McKeown what approach to take if an elected member owned a property with a second or third party.

Mr McKeown replied, saying the best course of action to take would be to state that the respective property was in joint ownership.

It was a conversation which swiftly prompted many of Cllr Browne's fellow colleagues to join in.

“You may get a couple of pages then, John,” Cllr Martin Mulleady impishly joked.

Appearing to welcome the humourous quip from across the Chamber, Cllr Browne replied: “Ah, but I don't want to be giving away too much.”

Never one to pass up an opportunity to wind up those around him, Cllr Mark Casey playfully suggested Cllr Browne should perhaps reconsider his own party allegiances.

“This is supposed to be open and transparent John,” he interjected.

“It's Fianna Fáil you should have been in.”