Local Government Bill criticised as an attack on local democracy

Mayo Deputy Dara Calleary has said the Local Government Bill published this week will see more power removed from Mayo communities.

The Fianna Fáil Deputy has heavily criticised the plan which will see Ballina, Castlebar, Westport Town Councils scrapped along with all other town councils across the country. According to Deputy Calleary, the Fine Gael plan will undermine local democracy and further remove Mayo communities from the decision-making process.

“It seems the Government has learned nothing from the Seanad Referendum. Instead of listening to the concerns of members of the public and local representatives from all sides about the impact of these local government cuts, ministers are just ploughing ahead with a plan that will undermine local democracy,” said Deputy Calleary.

“People in Mayo have been very clear that they want local decisions made by local people. The very last thing that Mayo needs is to be further removed from the democratic process, but that is what will happen under that Bill. By abolishing the three Mayo councils, the Government is robbing these towns of local representation to fight their corner in difficult times. The replacement is new municipal district councils – a very vague concept with non-existent resources.

“Instead of listening to the people and empowering communities, Environment Minister Phil Hogan has gone in the opposite direction by undermining local democracy.

“Irish politics needs to be reformed from the bottom up. This Bill fails that test. Fianna Fáil will this week our own detailed proposals on reforming local government, improving community engagement and enhancing the power of communities at a local level,” said Deputy Calleary.

Referendum proposed

Sinn Féin councillor Thérèse Ruane has described Minister Hogan’s Local Government Bill published last week as another attack on local democracy. “The decision to abolish 80 town councils including Castlebar, Ballina, and Westport does not serve local democracy or the local communities. Here in Castlebar, the town will lose out. Our town council has served us well and abolishing town councils is a populist move and must be opposed. I have this on the agenda for discussion at our next council meeting and I'm proposing that a referendum be held and the people of Castlebar consulted. The Council of Europe Charter on Local Self Government states that ‘changes in local authority boundaries shall not be made without prior consultation of the local communities concerned, possible by means of a referendum ...’ I think the people of Castlebar deserve to have their voice heard and I hope that my colleagues will support me on this.

“We need strong local government; we need local councils with the powers that have been stripped restored to them; we need to ensure that decisions are made locally, and local democracy is protected.”

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