Yesterday’s MCC monthly meeting saw Fine Gael councillor Suzanne Jamal forward a motion calling on Local Government Minister Darragh O’Brien to amend a circular sent out to all local authorities which sees councillors hit with a financial penalty if they fail to attend 80% of the required meetings .

The full story behind the motion will be revealed this afternoon in an exclusive chat with Jamal, but yesterday the thrust of her argument was that as she had suffered a family bereavement and had to attend a funeral allowances could have been made but the red tape surrounding the directive prevented this happening

In full her motion read “That Meath County Council writes to the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’ Brien seeking to amend Circular LG 4/2019 “to recognise where a member loses an “immediate relative” should NOT in that instance be subjected to a financial penalty under the 80% attendance of meetings rule”.”

If this motion is passed, that it should be forwarded to all other Local Authorities, LAMA and AILG.

Jamal told the meeting that under “normal circumstances” she would have absolutely no problem with the 80% attendance rules, however, those were not “normal circumstances”.

The Ashbourne area representative revealed she suffered a loss last year and had to attend a funeral. When she received a letter and a bill from the Council that said she missed many meetings, she claimed that this was “a punch in the stomach”.

She pleaded for councillors to be treated in the same manner as TDs. She made reference to Minister Helen McEntee who is currently on maternity leave.

Jamal received backing from two party colleagues, Sharon Tolan who seconded the motion, and Sarah Reilly.

Tolan said that like Jamal, she suffered a loss and was also devastated when she received the bill. She claimed she has an “excellent record of attendance”, but that so much has changed during this pandemic and that there needs to be compassion.

Reilly that this was an “emotive subject” and asked for the motion to be amended to include “all statutory leave”.

When Jamal said she feared that the amendment might “dilute the motion”. Reilly withdrew her suggestion.