Wednesday, 29 July 2020
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I wish to discuss our plans for the reform of local government. During the pandemic we have seen the really practical response of local government in some areas. I refer in particular to the town activation committees set up to get towns moving. When we eroded local government by abolishing town councils under the Local Government Reform Act 2014, the resulting lack of local governance had a major impact on society. We are only seeing that now. In recent weeks, I have visited many towns in west Cork that used to have town councils, for example, Bantry, Skibbereen, Clonakilty, Bandon and Kinsale. We took local power and democracy away. We now have a major void when it comes to raising issues and getting things done. This is not about councillors' pay or prestige. It is about how society works at a basic level. We must have an appropriate local government structure.
To reform local government we must go back to the core idea of bringing power to local populations. We need to re-examine what we did and reconsider the decision to dismantle town councils. We must restore a structure that brings real democracy to people on the ground. There is no logic to the fact that in my own county, the head of Cork County Council sits in County Hall, six or seven miles inside the separate jurisdiction of Cork city. That makes no sense. If we are really serious about reforming local government and making a real impact on the lives of citizens, we need to bring power back to the people through a network of town councils. I ask the Acting Leader that we have a comprehensive debate with the Minister in the next session about putting a vision in place to ensure people have the local representation they need. We are all politicians and we hear every day of the week that big government does not work. We need to bring government back to the people. There is universal agreement that town councils must be reinstated.