Tramore Town Council has responded in low key fashion to a letter from former member Betty Twomey in which she described their handling of controversy over the state of the local sand dunes as “a public relations gaucherie”.
A conciliatory tone was evident at the Council’s July meeting after the members were informed that Mrs. Twomey had declined an invitation to attend, issued following the previous monthly meeting. At that meeting she was accused by Cllr. Ann Marie Power of having launched a vitriolic attack on the membership, on WLRfm, over litter in the sand dunes.
Cllr. Power further maintained she had been erroneous in some of her radio comments and Town Manager Brian White described the dunes as having been “heavenly” when he visited them a few days previously. Cllr. James McCartan said he had never seen them so clean.
The response from Mrs. Twomey to the invitation was not read out at Tuesday night’s meeting, but in it she said she failed to see what could be gained by her repeating to them what she had already said on radio. She would only be submitting herself further to “the Councillors’ contradictions” and it was obvious she and they had different standards as to what constituted dirt and litter.
“Therefore”, she wrote, “unlike the councillors, I feel that any further discussions would be more productive if they were kept in the public arena rather than in secret, behind closed doors. The Councillors may not favour this as it is already evident I have much public support” (It should be pointed out that the Council’s meetings, self-evident from this report, are held in public in that they are covered by the press and local radio).
She enclosed photographs of littered areas which, she said, some members had described as “beautiful”, “ever so clean” and, in the case of the Town Manager, “heavenly”. Would they still agree, she enquired.
She added: “Had our positions been reversed, I hope I would have thanked the complainant for drawing attention to the sad situation, while at the same time promising to do whatever was possible to rectify it. Instead of that I received unbridled personal criticism and an implicit accusation of telling untruths, although Ann Marie Power did not condescend to specify what my erroneous remarks were.
“Some people would consider the Council’s handling of the matter a public relations gaucherie”.
Cllr. Power, not having seen the letter contents, said it was a pity Mrs. Twomey had declined to attend. Maybe she had misunderstood the situation and she (Cllr. Power) wanted to publicly acknowledge her contribution towards keeping the sand dunes in pristine condition.
The only reason she wanted her in attendance was to discuss matters, particularly given Mrs. Twomey’s involvement with the Tidy Towns Committee. Maybe that body, she suggested, should corroborate with the Town Council, rather than deriding what they were doing.
She further suggested that the Mayor and Town Manager meet with Mrs. Twomey, because it was in everyone’s interests to keep the sand hills clean.
The Mayor felt that they should meet instead with the Tidy Towns as a body, but Cllr. Dan Cowman informed him that it had become defunct.
That prompted Cllr. Lola O’Sullivan to enquire what had become of an annual €500 subvention the Council made to Tidy Towns.
Cllr. Blaise Hannigan informed her that it had not been drawn down for the last couple of years.
Mayor Hayden undertook, through Town Clerk Mr. John O’Sullivan, to make contact with representatives of Tidy Towns. “It is important that we reactivate it”, he said, adding that he would update the councillors at their September meeting.
While acknowledging that some irresponsible individuals were littering parts of the town and sand dunes, he said it was a shame on account of all the good work that was being done to have criticisms aired on radio, which created a negative impression.
Footnote: Maureen O’Carroll, a former Town Commissioner and also former Tidy Towns Committee chairman, confirmed that the organisation had become defunct, due to lack of volunteers.