| 13.4°C Belfast

Watch: Sinn Fein councillor Brendan Barry took part in three-hour Zoom call as he drove

A Sinn Féin councillor took part in a three-hour county council meeting via video conferencing app Zoom, while driving a 325km round trip to Dublin.

Councillor Brendan Barry, from Drumshambo, Co Leitrim, could be seen driving on screen for up to two hours of the meeting.

When contacted by the Irish Independent, Mr Barry confirmed he had taken part in the online meeting and was driving but felt there was not an issue with it.

Mr Barry, a farmer, said he had a valid reason to drive to Dublin as he was bringing a relative for a hospital appointment.

"I suppose I was able to listen in on what was happening and still be at the meeting. It was very useful," he said. "I would have a very necessary reason why I had to be driving. There isn't an issue with it is there?"

When it was suggested video calling while driving is dangerous, Mr Barry conceded "all right", but insisted he didn't believe it to be a problem.

"Well, I didn't realise there was an issue with it whatsoever because I wasn't touching the phone. The phone was on a mount. And it wouldn't affect my driving because I was listening on an earpiece, which is normal on a call.

He insisted: "I didn't realise there would be an issue with it whatsoever."

Mr Barry said he was bringing a relative to a hospital appointment and his trip was necessary and unavoidable.

At the end of the meeting Mr Barry was due to table a motion in relation to planning permission for one-off housing in Leitrim but his connection failed.

Councillors repeatedly attempted to contact him to reconnect his video chat but the meeting heard he was having trouble with coverage.

The meeting was attended at different times by 27 people - up to 24 of whom were fellow councillors.

Despite seeing Mr Barry manoeuvring the steering wheel and driving while trees, buildings and even a Dublin Bus flew past in the background, no councillor addressed the situation.

Mr Barry rarely looked directly at the screen but engaged frequently with the progress of the meeting. At different times, he gave a thumbs up and raised his hand.

When it came for Mr Barry's turn to table a motion at the end of the video call, his audio connection also failed. By this time he seemed to have pulled in and had spent over a minute trying to adjust his screen.

A councillor who took part in the meeting burst out laughing when contacted by the Irish Independent afterwards.

"You're not serious. I didn't realise he was driving. I certainly knew he was in the car but I thought he was pulled in when he was talking.

"I work close enough with him and find him sound. He's not a bad lad. The people around Ballinamore seem to like him. He did well in the last election.

"We have attempted this (online meetings) a few times and he certainly was in the car the last time, but he was pulled in then I thought. He must like that car."

He added: "Please don't waste the opportunity to highlight the problems of planning permission in Leitrim though."