Thursday, 13 December 2018
Local Government Bill 2018: Report and Final Stages
I thank the Minister of State for his response and other colleagues for their comments. I do not question the bona fides of any Member of the House on this. I spoke to Deputy Eugene Murphy earlier and he also expressed concerns about the removal of the urban area committee. The difficulty is that there is no alternative on the table. I do not question that the Minister of State will bring forward a legislative measure in the new year, but we have all seen how difficult legislation can be. The Minister of State has admitted that this will not be universally accepted and we saw how a head of steam built up regarding these amendments. As we approach the local elections, I do not have the reassurance that the same head of steam will not build up again in respect of whatever is the alternative. The difficulty is that we have 99 weeks and next week we will have 98 weeks. It will be down to 90 weeks in the new year.
The boundary area report for Athlone continues to stand. The Minister of State is correct that he is not bound by it, but he will not necessarily be the Minister at the end of 2020 when the clock stops ticking in this regard. I do not know who the Minister will be. We know that if it is one of his predecessors County Roscommon would go into County Westmeath at the stroke of a pen. I do not have any assurance in that regard and that is why I am a lone voice. I am opposed to the removal of these sections until I see an alternative. I accept the assurances that have been given by the Government, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, but the clock is ticking. If they renege on putting that alternative in place, the people of County Roscommon will remember that fact when the local elections and the next general election come around. Members' colleagues throughout the country - the CEOs, councillors, council candidates and colleagues in this House - will be opposed to whatever alternative is brought forward. We need urban area committees across boundaries and they must be placed on a statutory footing. I am very supportive of co-operation, but co-operation cannot happen unless it is set out in law. Next week, we will be down to 98 weeks in the context of the Athlone area report. Every Member has now been warned of the position in that regard.