CRITICISM of council members travelling to twinned towns and cities across the world or visiting New York for St Patrick’s Day met with sharp rebuttal at a recent meeting of the local authority.
The council was seeking approval for members to travel to Fourchambault in France and Echternach, Luxemburg, with cllr Adrienne Wallace outspoken in her criticism of these “junkets”.
“I think we should have a breakdown of the costs involved and, if there are any meetings had, we should see minutes of them and full details of any work people do … if there is any work done,” she fumed.
Cllr John Cassin took exception to cllr Wallace’s suggestion, adding that visits by delegations from the council “cannot be measured”, given the goodwill and lifelong friendships formed. He spoke of the importance such visits are to the Carlow diaspora around the world.
Cllr Cassin also praised the work of John Nolan and the County Carlow Association in London, adding that many people from Carlow had got jobs and a bit of work in London thanks to the support of John over the years.
“You just cannot measure that, and then people from London come over to Carlow … relationships that last forever, relationships Carlow has all across the world. Maybe you should go yourself, Adrienne, then maybe you wouldn’t be so cynical of it and see the benefits of it yourself,” added cllr Cassin.
Cllr Tommy Kinsella reflected on his trips abroad, while cathaoirleach John Pender added “the amount of people I met from Carlow … invaluable contacts made”.
Cllr Andrea Dalton spoke of the huge diaspora from Carlow all over the world and how a visit by a Carlow delegation “means so much to people who maybe never get home to Carlow”.
Cllr Dalton spoke of the huge social and economic benefits, reflecting on a recent visit of 13 students from Dole, France to Carlow and the trip made in 2018 of people from Tempe, Arizona.
Cllr Fergal Browne also spoke of the delegation of 35 people from Tempe which visited Carlow, adding that he was “delighted to host a family from Tempe in my own home”.
Cllr Browne expressed his objection to the word “junket”, adding that a “lot of work and meetings” happen during these visits. “You just couldn’t buy that publicity for Carlow and you definitely get back the benefits down the line,” he added.
Cllr Michael Doran reflected on his trip while cathaoirleach to Davenport, USA, which is twinning with Bagenalstown. He said there was a full itinerary as part of the trip, with visits to education and health centres and also an appearance on local TV and radio stations. In return, a group of senior citizens from Davenport visited Ireland, making Carlow their base for their week-long trip.
“I resent them being called ‘junkets’; they are very valuable to Carlow,” stated cllr Doran.
Cllr Charlie Murphy reflected that he was “delighted” to travel to Newfoundland, adding that a group from there had since been over to the county “six or seven times over the last ten years. It’s of huge benefit to the southern areas of the county,” cllr Murphy said. “When you talk about the money spent, it’s an investment.”
Cllr Fintan Phelan spoke of the importance of twinning from both a cultural and economic point of view. He said it was important that these relationships were maintained and over the years they have been extremely beneficial to Carlow.
Cathaoirleach cllr John Pender stated that he was “proud” to be part of a delegation led by Bishop Denis Nulty which was due to travel to Echternach in June to celebrate Carlow’s historic links with the area.
However, cllr Wallace was unconvinced, and turning to cllr Cassin criticised his “cosy relationship” in London. She added: “A lot of people don’t know these people and there should be some transparency and a breakdown of the costs.”
“It’s not a ‘cosy relationship’. I have a friendship with the man,” replied cllr Cassin.
“To say that is very disingenuous to John Nolan, who has helped out an awful lot of people … I really think you need to go on one of these trips. You can’t criticise unless you’ve experienced it,” asserted cllr Cassin.
Cllr Wallace referred to a People Before Profit councillor in Sligo who, as cathaoirleach, had decided to pay for the trip himself. “Pay yourself; not always with the paw out,” she warned.