Seanad debates

Monday, 22 February 2021

10:30 am

Photo of Lorraine Clifford-LeeLorraine Clifford-Lee (Fianna Fail)

I will briefly talk about aspects of this issue, which have not been covered by my colleagues. We all know the pressure councillors are under. It is an increasingly difficult job to do. I was glad to see a commitment to deliver on the Moorhead report included in the programme for Government. We all agree approximately €17,000 is not sufficient pay for someone doing the kind of full-time job councillors do. Being a public face to a very important role within a local authority is very full on. The Moorhead report was completed long before the Government was formed. There was no reason it was not acted on but I am glad we will see action on it. I pay tribute to Councillor Mary Hoade of AILG, Councillor Micheál Anglim and the executives of LAMA for their tireless work linking in with every group in this House and the Dáil in regard to this. Delivery of this is most important.

No one goes into politics for the money. People go into it for the love of their community and county. The reality is that they pay bills and have financial commitments like everyone else. The exodus of councillors during the last local elections really struck me. These were former councillors who had been elected in 2014 but due to the increase in the size of local authority areas and the increase in commitments, they felt they could not keep it up. In particular, these were people with young families who could not keep up the job because of the onslaught of work that hit them when they were first elected. I am glad to see the Labour Party has acknowledged it was a mistake to abolish town councils because they were a vital part of local government.

I want to briefly mention the lack of maternity leave rights for councillors. We cannot expect women to put themselves forward for election at local authority level if we do not ensure they have maternity leave rights. This in turn has a knock on effect on the female representation in both Houses of the Oireachtas. It is a serious barrier to entry. I want to see this report, and other commitments around the conditions of local authority members, delivered on.

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