'I can still serve voters from other side of the world'
A FIANNA Fail councillor who emigrated has insisted he can represent his Irish constituents from Australia.
Wexford town councillor Kevin Dwyer moved Down Under before Christmas in search of work but held on to his elected post in Ireland.
Mr Dwyer, who is paid €4,000 a year for being a public representative, told the Herald he is "very accessible" to his constituents, even though he is based in Sydney.
"They can contact me on Facebook or by email. I have been making representations since I've come to Australia," he said. "I've come through two elections with a very strong vote. I have a good mandate from the local community.
"Of course people are contacting me. It's very easy to deal (with issues) through Facebook and email. What I do miss out on are the meetings every month -- it's not ideal," he said.
His fellow New Ross town council members voted by a majority to extend his leave period to 12 months.
But non-party representative Bobby Dunphy said Mr Dwyer should take the "honourable decision" and vacate his seat.
Mr Dwyer, who is staying with his aunt in Sydney's Lane Cove district, reacted by saying he would like a bit of "decency, respect and courtesy".
He wants the opportunity to bring his partner and two children over to Australia and see if they settle before resigning as a New Ross town councillor.
He has managed to secure a job as a carpenter and is now sponsored for four years, meaning he can remain in Sydney long-term.
Mr Dwyer pointed out his family is not making a net financial gain from his councillor's salary. Mr Dunphy had said "at some stage a councillor has to hold his hands up and tell his constituents I'm sorry, I can't represent you properly, I'm going to resign".
He added: "He's in Australia. It's very hard to communicate from there. We don't have Skype in the chamber. We had a very important motion and Kevin Dwyer was not there to indicate whether he supported it or not. That's critical."
However, a majority of Mr Dwyer's fellow councillors granted his request for an extension of time away from the chamber.
He had been unemployed for two years before emigrating, after 15 years as a self-employed plasterer and roofing contractor.
Mr Dwyer said he was looking for some compassion for the difficult situation in which he finds himself.
His family are due to move over shortly. "Until they settle, I can't make a decision on my future," Mr Dwyer said.