The Méara of Ballina Town Council has called for a referendum to be held on the same day as the proposed referendum on the abolition of the Seanad, to see do people want to retain town councils rather than abolish them as is proposed at the moment.
Méara Johnny O’Malley adjourned standing orders of the July meeting of Ballina Town Council so the councillors could debate a notice of motion he had placed on the agenda which stated “That Ballina Town Council calls on the Minister for the Environment to use the opportunity of the referendum on the future of Senate to consult with the relevant people on the abolishment of Town Councils.”
Speaking on his motion, Méara O’Malley said: “My view is that when small groups meet in local government politics goes out the window and people work together and with the management for the better of the town. In county councils, it’s often aligned one side against the other and the management have much more power.”
He continued telling the meeting that Ireland was going the opposite way to the rest of Europe and will end up having eight times fewer public representatives per head of capita than the likes of Sweden after these changes are brought in.
There was full support from the rest of the councillors. Independent Cllr Mary Kelly said: “I think you’re right, let the people decide, this whole thing has been done without consulting the people, it’s wrong.” While Cllr Peter Clarke added: “It’s the people who gave us the mandate and they should be the ones who get to decide the issue, not the Minister.”
Independent Cllr Gerry Ginty praised the work done by the town councils in the past and how three independents, three Fine Gael and three Fianna Fáil councillors all worked together for the town on the current council. He went on to say that if it was about cost saving: “I’m sure most of us here would serve on the council without the pay we get.”
One of Méara O’Malley’s suggestions on how to run the referendum was that it should be held only in the town council electoral areas on the day of the referendum on the Seanad to allow the people a vote, however by not offering the franchise to all of the electorate is something that could cause legal issues. Fine Gael Cllr Mark Winters added: “I’d like to support the motion, I agree with the principle of it, but there will be problems potentially with it. I’m sure all the people in the urban areas will support it, but to confine the vote to just there is probably not very legal.” Cllr Winters also hit out at what he saw was a lack of action on the issue by the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland (AMAI ), saying: “We’ve debated this issue to death, but the AMAI have gone very quite on it. I’d like to have heard a lot more on the issue from them.” Cllr Willie Nolan told the meeting that the AMAI were looking at bringing a test case under European law to stop the cull of town councils and that was being looked into at present