October 20, 2020
News Sport

Storm over call for Waterford Mayor to ‘step aside’ in row about Covid rules

Sinn Féin has called on the mayor of Waterford to step aside in a row over how Covid-19 restrictions were applied at a GAA club.

The party also wants Waterford City and County Council to conduct an inquiry into the role of the mayor at a match when the Covid guidelines were breached. But the council’ chief executive says he has no power to conduct such an inquiry.

Michael Walsh also expressed “serious disappointment” that the party had not sought his opinion before making a public call for an investigation.

The storm centres on a match when Dungarvan GAA fielded a player who had been tested for Covid-19 and had not yet received the result of the test. They went on to win the county intermediate football final against Kill and the player went on to test positive.

The club apologised for what it said was a misinterpretation of the rules about Covid testing.

Cllr Damien Geoghegan, Mayor of Waterford City and County, is Team Covid Supervisor for the Dungarvan club.

Sinn Féin has called on him to step aside “until the controversy relating to an alleged breach of Covid regulations has been resolved”.

Sinn Féin’s Cllr Pat Fitzgerald made the call in a letter to council Chief Executive Michael Walsh, written on behalf of all Waterford’s SF councillors.

The letter said Sinn Féin was “seriously concerned that the Covid – 19 regulations and the national code of conduct for councillors may have been breached”.

In a subsequent statement Sinn Féin said the “credibility of the Mayor of Waterford, and the authority of the office of mayor, are being damaged by this controversy”.

It criticised what it claimed was the “refusal of the mayor to address the controversy or to account for his role, if any, in the alleged breach”.

Cllr Geoghegan has insisted that his role as the Team Covid Supervisor involved only keeping a record of attendance and ensuring equipment and touch point areas are properly cleaned..

The Fine Gael councillor told reporters he had not been aware any player was going for a test. He said he understood the test was conducted before the match and he was only informed when the positive result came back. The Chief Executive of Waterford Council responded  in a letter to Cllr Fitzgerald, saying he had no power to conduct an investigation into the alleged breach of Covid-19 regulations.

Sinn Féin replied with a further statement, quoting a section of the Local Government Act which states that the Code of Conduct not only applies to the official function of a councillor, but to any matters that may impact on the “integrity of the discharge of local authority functions” and that “councillors should in all matters seek to ensure that their conduct does not bring the integrity of their office or of local government into disrepute”.

Sinn Féin said it wanted “the facts established and the controversy resolved as soon as possible”.

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