THE reform of local government is a blow for democracy, according to Portlaoise Town Council, who have bemoaned the proposed abolition of town councils which will render many local councillors obsolete by 2014.
At the recent meeting in County Hall, Cllr Kathleen O’Brien proposed a motion to call on Minister Hogan to reconsider abolishing town councils.
“Portlaoise Town Council has done tremendous work throughout the years, it’s very disheartening to see,” she said, adding that she was making one last effort to see if some of it could be saved.
Cllr Alan Hand said it was a sad day for democracy.
“The town council is entry level politics, a community activist could join, now this will make politics for the heavy hitters,” he said.
His colleague, Cllr Caroline Dwane added that the reform of local government had not been properly spelt out and she wondered what sort of powers councillors would end up with.
Cllr Matthew Keegan remarked that he would welcome the reform if the mayor is to be retained, adding with a smile: “I hope the minister didn’t decide it was time to abolish town councils when he saw me being elected.”
“I’m surprised this town council isn’t more angry about this,” said Cllr Jerry Lodge. “This is a disgraceful, arrogant decision by the minister and people will miss out in the long run. I resent very much any minister removing democracy.”
Cllr Willie Aird said that for years people have made a laugh of Portlaoise Town Council, but it’s the oldest form of democracy they have.
“This town council costs less to run than a minister gets in expenses,” he said. “The only thing I can think, is that the people in Leinster House don’t like local councillors raising issues. This is the real fundamental level of democracy, we might be repetitive but so what? There were more jobs done in Portlaoise though the perseverance of town councillors than county councillors.”
Cllr Aird went on to say that politicians have taken democracy away and he remarked that there is huge fire power in a local town council.
“People fought and died for democracy in this country,” he added.
Cllr Rotimi Adebari described the town council as “the arm of government which is closest to the people”, while town mayor, Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald said that the decision is removing very basic local democracy.
“There’s a need for reform, but the way it was done is very degrading,” she said.