Anne Devitt (FG): voted to send

Cash-strapped Fingal county councillors have voted to send a delegation on an all-expenses-paid trip to Brazil later this year, after members refused to bow to demands from more than a third of their colleagues for the trip to be cancelled.

Last week's monthly meeting of the council heard calls from recently elected Labour party councilor Pat Nulty that attendance at the housing conference should not be sanctioned by those present in light of the current economic crisis.

He argued that at a time when community groups and council staff were facing significant cutbacks, councillors could not justify sending a delegation to the meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

But despite strong support for his views from several other Labour councillors and the council's two Socialist Party representatives, his initiative was defeated 13-8.

Surprisingly, among those voting against Nulty's proposals were the current mayor and deputy mayor of Fingal, Ciaran Byrne and Tom Kelleher, both of whom are fellow Labour councillors.

All six Fine Gael members of the council also voted against the proposal, with just one Fianna Fáil member, Eoghan O'Brien, supporting it.

The conference, with the theme 'Building Communities in the City of the Future', is due to take place on 13-17 November. Among the questions it will ask are "How can tomorrow's cities be more socially equal, sustainable and affordable?" and "Can the urban spaces created by the modernist design of cities promote community life?"

Nulty told the Sunday Tribune he felt that given the current economic climate "going to Brazil is just not on".

"The money could be used more effectively. Councillors can use books and the internet to read up on issues, or attend conferences in Ireland," he said. "I cannot see any justification for this conference. And I felt it was important to take a stand."

But mayor of Fingal Ciaran Byrne said the cost involved in attending the conference was "minuscule" when compared with the council's overall budget.

"The major cost of these trips is actually usually the conference fee, not the travel," he said.

How they voted:

Fingal councillors who supported sending a delegation to Brazil:

Joan Maher (FG)
Anne Devitt (FG)
Kieran Dennison (FG)
Eithne Loftus (FG)
Alan Farrell (FG)
Tom O'Leary (FG)
Ciaran Byrne (Lab)
Tom Kelleher (Lab)
Gerry McGuire (Lab)
May Mc Keown (Ind)
David O'Connor (Ind)
David McGuinness (FF)
Mags Murray (FF)

And those who voted against:

Peter Coyle (Lab)
Ruth Coppinger (SP)
Clare Daly (SP)
Ken Farrell (Lab)
Patrick Nulty (Lab)
Eoghan O'Brien (FF)
Cian O'Callaghan (Lab)
Matt Waine (SP)