PORTLAOISE councillors believe they should be given more power under the upcoming reform of local government.
In a motion proposed by Cllr Caroline Dwane, the council urged Minister for the Enviornment Phil Hogan to give them additional functions and extra powers.
“Local parks, for instance, could come under the Town Council functions,” Cllr Dwane suggested. “The footpaths are good in Portlaoise and Mountmellick and that’s thanks to the Town Councils.”
Cllr Dwane went on to point out that a previous upgrade of the Mountmellick Road had to be dug up, after it was discovered that a water upgrade was also needed. She said that both works should have been done at the same time, which would have happened had the council had more control.
She also pointed out that there is a problem with boundaries in certain areas of Portlaoise, with some estates, such as Fairgreen and Kilminchy, split in half between Town Council and County Council jurisdiction.
Her party colleague, Cllr Alan Hand said he was very proud to have been elected onto the Town Council.
“We’re local representatives making local decisions for local people,” he said. “Local representatives are best placed to make these decisions.”
Cllr Jerry Lodge said that the Minister’s proposal to reduce the role of local authority was poorly thought out, while Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald remarked that the councillors are the ones who know about local issues. Cllr Kathleen O’Brien opined that it was very important to keep the Town Council.
“It’s important we hold on to the powers we have,” Cllr O’Brien said. “Councillors have worked very hard for our town. We need more power.”
“Portlaoise Town Council costs €80,000 a year to run,” added Cllr Tom Jacob. “The Minister has just awarded two public servants half that. He should look at the realities.”
Cllr Matthew Keegan said that Ireland must be the only country in the world about to allow such a loss of democracy.
“Portlaoise is the biggest town in the Midlands. We deserve and need more powers,” he said.
Town clerk, John Clarke said that an email was sent to the office of the Minister on May 30 and an acknowledgement letter had been received by the council. The councillors agreed to make a further submission to send to the Minister.
“I’d like to see the submission going sooner, not later,” declared Cllr Dwane.