Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien’s approval for councillor expenses to be paid for virtual meetings during Covid-19 pandemic

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien signed off on a plan to ensure councillors would not lose expenses for non-attendance at meetings during the pandemic.

The minister was told that councillors were obliged to attend 80% of meetings during a year to receive full payment of their expenses allowance.

However, Covid-19 restrictions where some members were cocooning, because of age or medical conditions, while other councillors were self-isolating had played havoc with actual physical attendance.

In a briefing prepared for Mr O’Brien, the minister was warned there were significant legal concerns last summer about council votes taking place “using online platforms” and the possibility of legal challenge.

Officials said that their legal advice – and the advice given to several local councils – was that council meetings must take place in a “physical location”.

As a result, some councils were running what were called “minimum quorum” meetings where a small number would show up in-person by agreement with other councillors.

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