Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I have to deliver it.
Separately, with effect from January 2017, the Social Welfare Acts were amended such that most councillors gained access to similar benefits as self-employed contributors. As a consequence, councillors under the age of 66 are now reckonable for the purposes of accessing class S benefits, including maternity benefit.
Any change to the provisions allowing for councillor absences would require an amendment to the Local Government Act 2001 by the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has previously examined the possibility of introducing amending provisions specifically to allow for maternity leave absences of longer than six months without the requirement for the other elected members to pass a supporting resolution. This was not advanced due to the possible implications for the status of councillors as officeholders.
I am aware that when this issue was debated in the Houses, important legal matters were also raised. It is important, therefore, that proposals relating to maternity leave for councillors are considered in the context of arrangements for all officeholders in the State.
The Minister of State with responsibility for local government and planning is willing and interested in inputting constructively to wider consideration on the matter, which is important in ensuring that elected councils are fully representative of the constituents they serve.
It is also important to say that the Act in question has not been changed since 1870. That is not in the script.