Seanad debates

Monday, 22 February 2021

10:30 am

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)

It is a disgrace that we are even having this debate. It should be over.It is demoralising and insulting to councillors as they watch a wage agreement go through, pay increases for Oireachtas Members and an increase of €81,000 for a Secretary General. They have every reason to feel demoralised, undervalued and greatly annoyed. The last intervention for councillors that made a difference was when the now Tánaiste gave them a PRSI opportunity, which mattered a lot to them. The Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, has taken this issue by the scruff of the neck, following on the work of his colleague and former Minister of State, Deputy Phelan, in this regard. He has engaged with LAMA and the AILG and I am getting great feedback on that engagement. Now is the time for action. I appeal to him to push this change down the last bit of the road.

I had the opportunity of serving on Cavan County Council for more than 20 years, including as cathaoirleach. It was a huge honour. It is a very diverse council but, in general, one can only have a diverse council when there is proper pay and remuneration for councillors. People are not in it for money. Local government is a vocation and people love to do public service, but they also have to pay the bills and try to exist. The workload of councillors has risen exponentially since 2004 and is gone out of all proportion. If we are to reform local government properly into the future, we will need a taxation system that is effective for local councillors. That is not possible if councillors are not paid even to do what they have to do at the moment. We will not get good candidates and there will not be diversity in councils. The idea that there would not be some vouched expenses, as referred to by Senator Warfield, is not a runner because of the differences in councillors' situations.

I acknowledge my colleague, Senator Craughwell, for bringing forward this motion.

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