Seanad debates

Monday, 22 February 2021

10:30 am

Barry Ward (Fine Gael)

The Minister of State has heard many examples today of how hard-working councillors are. They are the most underresourced and overworked group of elected representatives in this country. In tandem with that, their role has been devalued by successive Governments since 2000. Since the introduction of the Planning and Development Act, power after power has been stripped away from local government. Sometimes those powers have been taken away altogether; in other cases, they have been taken from elected representatives and given to unelected officials and executives at local level, thereby rendering the role of the councillor, who is the representative of the people, increasingly marginalised.

There are still quibbles when we talk about the pay of councillors. Several speakers have noted that the latest provisions have already been announced several times, which means the public could well have the impression that the increases have already been given when, in fact, they have not. That is incredibly frustrating, especially when I think of the people in my own council. Councillor Frank McNamara, for example, who is a new councillor representing the Killiney and Shankill areas, is a trainee solicitor and somebody with options. What on earth is there to persuade someone like him to continue in local government? Siobhán Shovlin in Castleknock, a teacher, is another person with options and who is now doing two jobs. Brídín Murphy in Wexford is a social worker who has to travel to Dublin regularly. Serving in local government is incredibly difficult for these people and there is very little in it for them. This pay increase is not enough but it is the very least we can do to encourage people to remain in local government.


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