A meeting of all town councillors in North and South Tipperary held in the Garda College in Templemore last Wednesday has agreed to convene a special meeting of all Oireachtas members in both constituencies to seek support for the retention of town councils.
Those present emphasised the point that they were always available to Oireachtas members when required and the time has now arrived for those Oireachtas members to support councillors.
This historic meeting held was chaired by Templemore Mayor Jim O’Shea, who delivered a detailed presentation outlining the role that the modern, practical and adequately resourced town council will play in a 21st century Ireland.
Serious opposition was voiced to the continued removal of statutory powers and operational efficiencies, not to mention the representational effectiveness being continually diluted by the ongoing resourcing of services.
In a press statement issued after the meeting, Cllr O’Shea said that as the tier of government closest to the citizen, town local government is the embodiment of democracy at work on a local level.
“Town councillors are not afraid of change or additional duties in a modern society but wish to be allowed retain and develop more functions previously removed from their remit, in order to provide a better service to the local citizen,” he said.
He pointed out that Ireland has the weakest system of local government in Europe, with most power based at national level, while the current proposals go in the opposite direction to every other modern democracy in Europe.
“As the closest tier of government to the citizen and the only democratically elected body outside of the Oireachtas and President, local government is an oft-neglected but vital arena in reviewing and reforming the structures of the State as it faces new challenges,” said Cllr O’Shea.
He pointed ou that the Better Local Government reform in the late Nineties was the only reform fully implemented, but claimed this reform had no meaningful effect on democratic representation but massively increased the staffing levels within local government.
“Everyone agrees that in our economic plight, efficiency and value for money have to be guiding principles in all areas of reform. But democracy and a voice for local communities are also essential if we are to move forward as a modern economy. There are those unelected people who now have, and always have had, their hands on the levers of power that see the opportunity to get rid of the tier of local government closest to the people, with no impact on savings,” he maintained.