The city council votes against taking action against its main board

Wexford County Council has voted not to take action against its chief executive Tom Enright following a finding by the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) that he was seriously in breach of provisions of the Local Government Act.

At a special council meeting on Friday to review the Sipo findings, members voted to take note of the report and do nothing further. They gave a standing ovation to Mr. Enright at the conclusion of the meeting.

The law required that councilors have reviewed the Sipo report and what actions they, if any, should take. The options available in the law include suspension and dismissal.

At one vote, 30 members voted in favor of the motion. Cllr Pat Barden (Independent) abstained, and three councilors apologized for not attending.

The motion was proposed by Oliver Walsh of Fine Gael, and seconded by Fianna Fáil’s Cllr Pip Breen. It followed a series of contributions in which councilors expressed strong support for the main board.

Prior to the meeting, Mr Enright circulated a submission in which he reiterated issues that had formed the background to the Sipo findings, but also said he regretted the tone he had used in two e emails to South East Radio in August 2019.

While regretting the tone used in the emails, he said: “I have no regrets about standing up for the council against dishonesty by South East Radio.”

Sipo, who is presided over by the retired judge, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, formerly of the Court of Appeal, found that Mr Enright had violated the Local Government Act by sending two emails to South East Radio at the end of August 2019 in which he threatened the council to withdraw advertising with the station, during a dispute over the coverage of the council’s station.

Radio station complaint

The station has rejected Mr Enright’s criticism of his coverage. The controversy developed after remarks were made on South East Radio in March 2019 by local businessman Karl Fitzpatrick, with which Mr Enright took exception. In October of that year, Mr Fitzpatrick lodged a complaint with Sipo, which culminated in last week’s report.

Mr Enright told the council meeting that he was advised he had strong grounds for challenging the Sipo findings, but confirmed that he had no intention of doing so.

At the outset of the meeting, Catharine Barbara Anne Murphy quoted from the report as stating that there was no doubt the passion with which Mr Enright worked to improve Wexford county.

Mr Walsh, in drafting the motion, said the Sipo process had been going on for a number of years and had been very difficult for Mr Enright and his family. He believed “today was the day to draw a line under the whole saga”.

Cllr Green, in seconding the motion, said Mr Enright had “brought a breath of fresh air to the council” and that he fully supported Mr Walsh’s remarks.

After the vote, the director of services with the council, Eamonn Hore, speaking on behalf of the council board, said Mr Enright had an “inspiring, can-do approach” to his work for the county.

Mr Enright made a short speech in which he said that the past 2½ years had been a difficult time for him and his family. He was “overwhelmed and humbled” by the support he had received.

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