Updated: 24/09/16 : 04:12:45
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Sligo's paid council watcher turns up on TV....watching TV

By Eugene McGloin
Political Editor

A MAN paid over €20,000 a year to watch whether Declan Bree was a bully is now being watched himself.

TV3 this week showed Declan Naughton on the Irish version of entertainment show, ''Gogglebox Ireland.''

Sing Along

The new series, says the TV3 blurb, shows ''opinionated viewers'' in their own homes watching whichever programmes they choose.

Mr Naughton mostly kept his thoughts to himself, though he did sing along with 1960s act Sonny and Cher during a BBC Four item.

The Irish version of ''Gogglebox'' runs on TV3 on Thursday nights prior to the Vincent Browne Show.

The show is available to watch online and for cable views ''on demand.''

But it was in his professional consultancy that Mr Naughton first came to the attention of Sligo's public.

He sat in the public gallery at dozens of public meetings in Sligo Town Hall and made extensive notes. See link below

Public Uproar

Minutes of meetings did not record his watching brief on behalf of Sligo Borough Council management.

Indeed, for several meetings his identity and role was unclear to councillors or to other persons sitting in the public gallery. 

Later, there was public uproar in the borough area when it emerged Mr Naughton was earning over €20,000 a year for professional consultancy work.

In addition to fees Mr Naughton was entitled to claim travel and subsistence between his home in Co Wicklow and meetings in Sligo.

Some meetings attended by Mr Naughton in Sligo lasted just over five minutes.

Apart from regular monthly meetings and reconvened sessions, the consultant attended General Purpose (GP) meetings which dealt with planning issues.

Not Offered

 Mr Naughton produced a series of written reports and commentary circulated to the executive and later to elected members.

However, councillors were not offered a right to comment on reports prior to publication.

Cllr Bree who has since topped the poll in separate Sligo elections was first accused of bullying almost a decade ago.

He robustly refuted the claim on all public occasions, while several councillors separately expressed unease at Mr Naughton's role.

The row first flared in 2008 and fully ignited five years ago when then County Manager Hubert Kearns refused to attend Borough Council meetings.

During that stand-off it was never publicly explained why the same sets of executives and councillors met each other at meetings of Sligo County Council.

Consultant Declan Naughton taking notes at a Sligo Borough Council meeting in 2011. (Link below)

Photo: SligoToday.ie

Plan Clash

The two -term reign of Mr Kearns himself was also the subject of controversy.

On several occasions the Councils of which he was chief executive were criticised in written reports by the Local Government Auditor, notably on expenditure issues.

Borough Council members and the Manager clashed over an executive plan -- later aborted -- to build a footbridge between the Glasshouse and Connaughton Road.

Both Cllr Bree and Sinn Fein's Seán MacManus estimated that plan would have cost annual interest running to six figures.

Finally, this week's TV star with the Sligo link, Mr Naughton, is also listed online as a voluntary member of Blessington Parish Council.

Link: Sligo Today 6/12/11  Also note Related Articles on link page