Seanad debates

Monday, 22 February 2021

10:30 am

Photo of Malcolm ByrneMalcolm Byrne (Fianna Fail)

Oscar Wilde defined a cynic as someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. I think that can be applied to The Mirror'sill-informed clickbait coverage around local government last week. It is a frequent problem in national media that we do not see proper coverage of local government. RTÉ regularly has discussion programmes about local government without involving councillors.

There is a need, and it is a challenge, for AILG and LAMA to explain more effectively the role of a local councillor. This is something Members have spoken effectively but it is a pity our national media has not looked at the other side. There is an obsession around salaries without looking at the workload on the other side. That is in sharp contrast with local media.Newspapers and local radio do provide good coverage of what goes on at local level. Senator Ward was right in what he said earlier concerning the challenges being faced in local government. We have seen local government lose power after power, so this issue is about more than just a salary. More is now expected of councillors who have fewer powers. Instead, we have organisations like Irish Water and the HSE involved in this context, as well as the Office of the Planning Regulator, which is increasingly engaged in a power grab regarding local authorities. At the same time, as the Cathaoirleach mentioned earlier, the ratio of councillors to citizens in Ireland is the highest in Europe, currently about 1:5,000.

I set the Minister of State a challenge. Yes, the recommendations regarding pay should be implemented. When the Minister of State leaves his office, however, I want him to be remembered as the person who again empowered local government and local councillors. The directly elected post of the mayor of Limerick presents an opportunity for that role to be imaginative and to drive that city and county. However, what I would love to see is the Minister of State being able to state when he leaves office that not alone did he ensure councillors were properly paid but also that local government was finally properly empowered.

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