Seanad debates

Monday, 22 February 2021

10:30 am

Garret Ahearn (Fine Gael)

I welcome the Minister of State to the Chamber. The greatest honour I have ever had was to be elected to Tipperary County Council and subsequently to become mayor of my home town of Clonmel. My father was a county councillor for ten years and my mother served as a councillor for 18 or 19 years before being elected to Dáil Éireann. I have lived in a household of local representatives all my life and have known nothing else. I appreciate the role of local representatives and the job they do.

In the past ten years, the workload of local representatives has increased dramatically. It is no longer a part-time role, as I believe most people recognise. The work local representatives do goes above and beyond that which was done ten or 20 years ago. My home county of Tipperary is so large and long that a councillor living in Carrick-on-Suir must travel 100 km to get to council meetings in Nenagh. That is a 200 km round trip and a full day's work just to travel to a meeting and back. A salary of €17,000 is not even close to being enough. It prevents good, decent people from taking on the job and means the good, decent people who are in the job cannot stay in it for long. That is not acceptable. We need to make changes.

Proposing the motion, Senator Craughwell spoke about government having done nothing. Senator Keogan stated that Independent Senators forced the hand of government on this issue. I believe those statements are a little disingenuous. The programme for Government states clearly that this issue must be dealt in the Government's first 12 months in office. I cannot think of any other commitment in the programme for Government which has a timeline for delivery of just one year. The Minister of State has worked immensely hard on this issue from the start. He has answered all my calls, which I appreciate, so to suggest nothing is being done is wrong. This debate is a clear sign the Minister of State is succeeding in what he is doing. I have no doubt he will succeed in this work and the appropriate pay will be given to councillors.

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