Seanad debates

Monday, 22 February 2021

10:30 am

Photo of Tim LombardTim Lombard (Fine Gael)

I thank Senator McGahon for sharing his time with me. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Burke.

This is an important topic. The Moorhead report has been a topic of considerable debate within the council and community for a long time. Action is required to implement the report's recommendations. The two main issues for councillors that the Minister of State probably hears about is pay, but also the lack of powers. We have seen an erosion of powers in recent years. We have done some of it ourselves. The introduction of a planning regulator was a sign that we did not trust the planning authority. We saw what that meant in County Cork in recent months when county development plan rulings were overturned by the planning regulator. That was a significant step, but it was a bad step for democracy. It is one of the key issues we must discuss. If the recommendations of the report are implemented, we must acknowledge that the councillors are the elected representatives of the people, not someone appointed by other bodies who determines what is happening on the ground.

Pay and conditions are a significant issue. When I was in county hall from 2014 to 2019, the five youngest councillors on Cork County Council across all political parties left. They were from Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. The average age of those councillors was 28. They either did not stand again, resigned or just walked away from politics. That is a deficit in society, and it is due to the regime put in place. A significant amount of work is required to be done. Pay will be a step in the right direction and powers will result in a serious step forward. It suits certain quarters in Dublin not to have any power at local level, and because of that we have a deficit of powers on the ground.

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