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An opinion piece from Barry Whyte who attended the most recent meeting of Donegal County Council.

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After another delayed day at Donegal County Council, in the end, it was great to finally see Councillors agree on something.

Just after 730pm last night, Councillors voted unanimously (apart from Sinn Fein Cllr Marie Therese Gallagher and Independent Cllr John Campbell) that the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, an opposition Councillor from Fianna Fail and the County Manager would all go to New York on St Patrick’s Day at the expense of the taxpayer.

Cllrs Gallagher and Campbell said they would need to see an itinerary of events to prove that the trip was worthwhile before they could agree, but them apart, every other Councillor in the chamber hailed the trip as great for the County.

The Mayor, Frank McBrearty, was one of the most vociferous against these “junkets” in 2010 when he voted against the then Fianna Fail Mayor Brendan Byrne and his Deputy Charlie McConalogue going on such a trip. But he admitted yesterday, that he was wrong back then, and he claimed that he has learnt in his time in politics, that these trips to the US were invaluable in promoting Donegal.

Coincidence to say the least is it not?

And, to rub salt into the taxpayer’s womb, the Mayor then suggested that a member of the opposition party, Fianna Fail, should also go on the US trip, offering the hand of peace across the chamber to the party who he has had most run-ins with. And they were by no-means not going to accept this offer. So, the Mayor, a man, who went from wanting no-one to go to the US on St Patrick’s Day at the expense of the taxpayer, to now wanting three Cllrs plus the County manager to go. I’ll be surprised if Frank McBrearty and a member of Fianna Fail can be in the same company for a few days.

And the cynics out there will ask if Cllr Frank McBrearty was not the Mayor, would he be agreeing with this free trip? Is this about doing the best for Donegal, or is this about Frank McBrearty getting a free trip to America? And if these trips are so great for the County, then why does he not pay himself? I’m sure he can afford it.

Is there anybody in Donegal who will agree with this trip? And how many jobs will the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, opposition Cllr and the County Manager actually bring back from New York?

But, lets look on the positive side, it’s great to finally see our much divided County Cllrs finally agree on something. It took them little under an hour to agree on this trip to the US. And, remember, this is the same Council who took almost, what felt like a lifetime, to pass the Councils budget.

Great to see they can agree afterall.

 Barry Whyte