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Local Government Bill distances political system from the public; McLellan

24 October, 2013

Sinn Féin TD Sandra McLellan believes that the passing of the Local Government Bill will have very damaging consequences for local democracy.

Speaking yesterday during the course of the second stage debate on the Bill, the Cork East TD said that she believe the Bill was a serious missed opportunity.

“No area of Irish democracy has taken such a hammering as local government over the last 10 to 15 years. We have a hopelessly underdeveloped and weak system of local democracy.

“This Minister had a tremendous opportunity to do something about that, and to bring power back down to that local level.

“However, that opportunity has been well and truly squandered. More than that the Minister has gone further than that, and taken the axe to the most local form of Government in this state.

“I spent several years on Local Authorities, on Youghal Town Council since 2004, including a year as Mayor, and on Cork County Council from 2009. While not perfect, and in need of reform, these Town Councils played a very real role.

“People feel a great sense of ownership of the town councils. They are represented by people they often know themselves personally, that they have access to, and whether they agree with them personally or not, that they feel they can trust because they have the best interests of the town at heart.

“In my own constituency of Cork East, we will take a massive hit in terms of local representation. We will lose five town councils, from the larger towns in East Cork, Fermoy, Youghal, Mallow, Cobh and Midleton. This will amount to 45 less local Representatives in my constituency.

“I believe as a consequence people will have less access to their political representatives, and the whole system is brought a step further away for ordinary people.

“There is a need for reform of local government, but it should have the opposite approach. It should be about returning powers to local government, and ensuring that elected members have the power, not unelected officials.

“It seems apparent that this Minister is not interested in real political reform. For this government, political reform is not about better politics, it is just about less politics, and fewer politicians.”

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