Govt review must re-instate Town Councils

Ballina– Calleary

Fianna Fáil TD for Mayo Dara Calleary says the Government is being forced into reviewing its flawed decision to abolish Town Councils.  Following a Parliamentary Question from Fianna Fáil, it’s emerged that a Government Review Group has been set up to investigate the impact of the new municipal districts on towns.

Deputy Calleary commented, “The Government’s decision to abolish Town Councils last year was extremely short sighted and has resulted in the abolition of Ballina, Westport and Castlebar Town Councils – all of which played important roles in their respective communities.  This move has led to the disenfranchisement of certain special interests, which have now become lost within the larger County Council framework.

“The abolition of Town Councils has created a democratic deficit at the very heart of local politics, with local communities being put in the back seat rather than being able to have a say in the policies that affect their areas.  The legislation introduced by the Government last year saw the number of elected councillor fall from 1627 to 949 across the country.  The creation of these larger councils and local authorities has come at the expense of local Town Councils.  This has resulted in a distance being created between local representatives and their constituents as the County Council has a much greater distance to cover.

“The fact that the Government has set up a group to review its decision only 12 months after the new system was adopted is a clear sign that the changes aren’t working.  The reforms introduced last year have taken the power away from ordinary citizens and has made Ireland the most centralised country in the western world.

“Fianna Fáil consistently opposed this flawed approach.  It has only served to damage communities by over-centralising local government activities. We must give the voice back to our communities.  Communities like those in Ballina, Westport and Castlebar, which have felt the deficit following the abolition of their Town Councils.  We must take the best elements of the Town Council structure and improve on it.  These councils had the ability to draw on the deep well of civic pride and harness it by giving people real opportunities to shape their communities.  The current system is unable to do that.  The Government needs to realise that, admit its mistake and take the necessary steps to improve the situation”.