Costs around upcoming Mayo council trip to US questioned

CONCERN has been raised about a proposed trip to the US by Mayo councillors next month.

The cathaoirleach and three councillors are due to attend the Milwaukee Irish Festival from August 14 to 19.

However, Aontú Councillor Paul Lawless has queried the cost involved, particularly, he said, with 'widely rumoured' rates and property tax hikes coming down the line and at a time when families and businesses are struggling with costs.

He voiced his concerns at yesterday's meeting of Mayo County Council where an item was on the agenda to authorise the attendance of the cathaoirleach and agreed members at the event.

Councillor Lawless requested a cost-benefit analysis of such trips and also details of how much this trip would cost, noting it is peak time of the year.

What are the benefits to the rate payers and tax payers, he asked.

He had a difficulty with the trip at a time when many businesses are struggling with growing costs, while many people cannot afford to go on a holiday themselves.

The local authority, said Councillor Lawless, should be exercising financial prudence and looking at how it can make savings.

Chief executive Kevin Kelly said the total cost is small in the context of the overall council budget, and the opportunity to speak with many people who have an interest in Mayo and travelling here is very positive.

He has been struck by the engagement with the diaspora and how meaningful they find it. He had no issue with the expenditure overall to represent Mayo abroad and make connections.

Independent Councillor Mark Duffy agreed it is important there is transparency and pointed out the importance of developing commercial, cultural and educational ties. He found huge value in trips he has undertaken representing the county, saying they work day and night when abroad meeting business and Mayo/Ireland groups, among others.

Following a trip to Chicago where they meet with representatives of the University of Notre Dame, support to the tune of $10,000 had followed for a project in his home town of Ballina, he said.

Councillor Johnny O'Malley was of the view that when people go abroad and do a good job of selling Ireland and Mayo, it's money well spent.

Councillor Michael Loftus didn't disagree with the question being asked but said he personally knew of the benefits coming back to the county.