Seanad debates

Friday, 18 December 2020

Appropriation Bill 2020: Second Stage


10:00 am

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I agree with Senator Buttimer on a number of issues. For example, I agree with his point that the sheer scale of the budget merits further discussion and longer sessions. I join the Senator in congratulating the Minister of State on his appointment and, in the context of what I am about to say next, I recognise the Minister of State's background in local government.

It is a disgrace that, in the weeks before Christmas, the Government did not announce an increase in councillors' pay. It was a ludicrous form of cowardice and was wrong on many levels. For years, councillors have been in a difficult situation. I know a number for whom carrying on is proving difficult. Doing much of their other work is not possible and other opportunities to earn are displaced. The job of a councillor, including being out and about physically, requires a great deal of expenditure, but the remuneration they get is far below that level. The Moorhead report was an objective study led by a legal individual. It established in objective terms that there was a strong case for councillors to get their pay. On foot of that study, the Minister of State sent a memo that was negotiated with all of the councillors' interest groups and would give councillors the dignity of a certain level of income.It would not put them in a great position but it would put them in a position that they could do their job. The Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, did that with great efficiency and sent it up the line. It should be implemented. Senator Buttimer referred to the input of the former Minister, Deputy John Paul Phelan, in this matter, which merits acknowledgment.

There is an injustice. As the Minister of State will know from his own background in local government, there is now a whole proliferation of meetings which did not exist when I entered local government. There are municipal areas with meetings after meetings. Councillors have to respond to the public, interest groups, attend public meetings and travel away from home. It is a difficult situation to be in. I could cite individual cases of councillors who are in difficult positions because of this but it would not be appropriate for me to do so. The Moorhead report established that in proper objective terms, stating there is a gaping need in this area. This matter needs prompt action. It is a disgrace. Councillors should have assurance of this issue before Christmas.


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