A cross-party delegation from Westport Town Council were in Strasbourg this week to attend the 25th Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. Fine Gael’s Cllr Myles Staunton, Fianna Fáil Cllr Margaret Adams, and Labour Cllr Keith Martin attended the congress to continue the council’s lobbying for the retention of town councils which are due to be abolished when their current term ends next summer. While the councillors were in Strasbourg the monitoring committee of the Council of Europe published a report on local democracy in Ireland from its monitoring committee, which called on the Irish Government to ensure the subsidiarity principle is better enshrined and protected.
While there the group, along with Willie Callaghan, president of the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland (AMAI ), Tom Ryan, director of the AMAI, Council of Europe members Mary Hegarty, Vincent McHugh, and Jan Rotte met with the chairman of the Congress Monitoring Committee, Lars Molin, and presented him with a copy of the town council’s case opposing the abolition of town councils.
During this meeting, Cllr Myles Staunton underlined the concerns relating to sections 4 and 5 of the Council of Europe's charter on local government to which Ireland is a signatory. Cllr Staunton drew attention to the lack of meaningful consultation and the issue of subsidiarity in the Irish Government's proposed reforms, which include the abolition of town councils.
Cllr Adams spoke of her 40 years as a councillor, 15 of which were spent on Mayo County Council. Cllr Adams outlined the efficiency and effectiveness of town councils when compared with county council structures. Cllr Keith Martin outlined how subsidiarity would be impacted by the abolition of town councils and by the fact that there would only be one councillor for every 5,000 people. Cllr Martin pointed out that just seven councillors would be representing an area three times the size of County Louth.
Cllr Staunton said: “It was very useful to have the opportunity to meet with the chairman of the monitoring committee and the report's authors to highlight Westport's position. The outcome is really pleasing as it reflects what we in Westport have been consistently saying since this debate began. We have been adamant that the principle of subsidiarity is not reflected in Ireland, and the council of Europe have recommended that this is reflected in any new laws.”