Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 17 January 2023

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government

Local Government Performance Indicators and Public Spending Code: National Oversight and Audit Commission

Mr. Michael McCarthy:

That is an interesting question. I remember when the debate on the abolition of the dual mandate took place back around 2002 or 2003, there were lots of pros and cons and there was a great expectancy at local government level that this would change the dynamic of the local authorities. For example, in Cork at that stage we generally met on Mondays, which was to facilitate Oireachtas Members to travel to Dublin during the week. We were told at the time that if the dual mandate was abolished we could meet on a Wednesday afternoon or a Thursday but they still meet on a Monday.

That was one of the few occasions when the comparison with international best practice was made. I remember at the time that the local government system in France was such in its functions, powers and full-time positions that it was an equally appealing career move to someone who wanted to be a practising politician as national politics was. The general trend in Ireland is that someone would begin his or her career in a local authority, then work his or her way into the Oireachtas and with a bit of luck, he or she might become a Chair of a committee, a Minister or a Minister of State. In France, however, the division was such that local government was so empowered that one was happy to fulfil his or her political ambition in that.

We have not looked at any other jurisdiction but I know from various workstreams we have been involved in that the Institute of Public Administration, IPA, for example, has done a lot of good work on the Irish local government system.

I would be very surprised if they had not looked at other experiences. Ultimately, it is a matter of policy. If the Government of the day has been given a mandate following a campaign and has a particular view around local government that would automatically recalibrate the stakeholders within that. However, in the short term, I do not see that to be the case and we do not make that comparison with the international experience.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.