'We can't be seen to be feeding half the country'
Councillors on Fermanagh and Omagh District Council have expressed concerns that they were being left with nothing to eat due to members of the public "stuffing their faces" at council meetings.
The Impartial Reporter has reported that the council is spending £19,000 on food and drink for meetings at ratepayer's expense.
Councillors said that every "Tom, Dick and Harry" were helping themselves to the food provided at meetings in the Enniskillen Town Hall and The Grange in Omagh.
At a meeting it was proposed that councillors eat in the in-house canteen rather than in the council chamber in an attempt to cut costs and wastae.
DUP Councillor Errol Thompson said he had seen members of the public "up on second and third occasions filling their plates" during meetings.
“You don’t mind people having a cup of tea but when you see them up feeding themselves,” he said.
“By the time we got up to get something to eat it was all gone, every Tom, Dick and Harry is up filling their face.”
Sinn Fein Councillor Sheamus Greene said there was often no food left.
“If I am late into the meeting my usual complaint is the food has been eaten, I have never come in and there’s been oceans of food left over,” he said.
UUP Councillor Howard Thornton said planning meetings in particular were a "fiasco".
“Everybody that’s attending planning meetings including agents are stuffing their faces; it’s wrong, I don’t know how we can justify it. We can’t be seen to be supplying half the country,” he said.
Mr Thornton's fellow UUP councillor Robert Irvine suggested holding meetings during the day to "cut out the hangers on".
“Hangers on? Tom, Dick and Harry? These are ratepayers we are talking about,” Councillor Sheamus Greene said.
Council Chief Executive Brendan Hegarty told councillors they were not entitled to free food.
“You are not entitled to get food provided to you, you are entitled to claim sustenance, it’s not the council’s responsibility,” he said.
Councillors agreed to support the motion that food and drink should be consumed in the canteen provided.
The latest food row comes after Derry City and Strabane District Councillors agreed to donate money to charity when taking biscuits at meetings after it emerged there had been complaints at fewer biscuits being provided at meetings in Strabane compared to Derry.