Meath County Council Chief Executive, Jackie Maguire, has warned elected representatives, they could be subject to a Garda investigation following a confrontation with members of the public, over alleged non compliance with health guidelines, following a planning meeting last Tuesday.
The incident arose when a visibly upset mother who had a baby in a buggy with her challenged a number of councillors about not wearing face masks and failing to maintain social distancing as they assembled in the cafe area of the Solstice theatre where the meeting took place.
In an email sent to councillors almost immediately after the incident, Meath County Council chief executive, Jackie Maguire compared the situation to the recent event in RTE which saw a number of high profile stars having to apologise after they admitted breaches of health guidelines at a staff party.
In the email, seen by Meath Live, Ms Maguire, who is also chair of the Solstice board, states, ‘I write to draw your attention to an incident that took place at the end of today’s council meeting.
‘In the cafe area of the Solstice theatre, members of the public, (who had already lodged complaints with the Theatre’s management) approached councillors in relation to their non compliance with public health guidance, specifically on non use of face masks and lack of physical distancing.
‘As a result of these incidents and complaints the Solstice Theatre and the Council could be subject to An Garda Siochana investigation (as recently with RTE).
It is believed that two councillors, Independent Nick Killian and Fine Gael’s Paddy Meade bore the brunt of the attack, although many more were in the immediate area, and Killian confirmed he was at the scene.
He told us, ‘In fairness, I won’t deny there was something happened all right, in my own case I believe I had my mask on at all times, I had left the meeting and was going to the toilet when I came across it.
‘There was a lady there complaining about social distancing and the fact some of the lads were not wearing their face masks, but from what I could see that was simply because they were drinking tea or coffee.
‘I had a busting headache after the meeting and moved on fairly quickly and when I came back down the woman was gone.’
Paddy Meade told us, ‘I think you are referring to a different councillor.
‘From when the meeting ended: I left that meeting wearing my mask and I was wearing my mask until I got into my car. I do know something about it as I did witness the end of a discussion between a member of the public and a councillor, and I then did witness her asking person nearby for his details, and then I think I recall there was further discussion with him,
‘I am assuming this to be the conversation you are on about. Though I would have been 30 foot or so away from them and wearing a mask at the time, and thus I had no communication with this woman, I actually think I would have been still in the meeting room when most of there conversation took place.
However an eyewitness confirmed ‘The woman was very upset and actually challenged Paddy who admitted he wasn’t wearing a mask as he had just forgotten to replace it after he left the meeting.
‘The woman then told him she had been in the cafe for the previous three days and never once saw him wearing a mask there at all.’
A council spokesperson said ‘The Council currently holds its meetings in the Solstice Theatre to enable it to be fully compliant with the public health guidance and the standard operating guidelines for the local government sector.
‘The elected members are reminded at each meeting of their individual obligations to adhere to the guidance at all times, including on the use of face-masks and physical distancing.’