Thursday, 13 December 2018
Local Government Bill 2018: Report and Final Stages
I support Deputy O'Brien. His amendment is sensible. It makes no sense whatsoever to go to the effort of having a plebiscite and then to give the Minister of the day the option of ignoring the result of the plebiscite. If it is not politically feasible, then let us not allow it to be legally possible. On that basis I am more than happy to support the amendment.
I also wish to comment on the Minister of State's response to Deputy O'Sullivan. The repeal referendum was preceded by a Citizens' Assembly, a special Oireachtas committee and the heads of a Bill. A significant amount of work went into building the consensus so that when we were out campaigning on the referendum we had a clear sense of what the legislative framework would look like. I am concerned that a Cabinet memo produced in a short period would not be of the same order. We clearly said to the Minister of State at the Oireachtas committee that we are willing to work with him. I am sure that is the case also for Deputies across the Chamber who are not on the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government. It is probably a bit ambitious to think that early in the new year there could be consultation with the Members and that we would agree in principle the shape of the devolution the Minister of State is talking about to such an extent that whatever memo goes to or comes from the Cabinet would get the approval of all sides of the House.
As a result, we would be going into the plebiscites on a much less sure footing than we did in terms of the repeal referenda, when the heads of Bills had been published. I urge caution. Those of us spent a lot of time on the directly-elected mayoral fora in Dublin leading up to the non-plebiscite know how difficult it is to deal with this issue. If there is not clarity in terms of the powers and functions of the directly-elected mayors, that makes winning or losing the plebiscites much more complicated. I just want to throw that out as a caution. While we are still happy to work with the Minister of State, I am not sure he is going to be able to do what he has outlined he wants to do in the short period in advance of those plebiscites if this amendment is passed.