Recently my colleague Shane Cassells TD brought a Bill into the Dáil which would allow Town Counicls to make a return. The benefits to the local community is one key incentive to having town councils and their merits considered once again. You can read my full contribution to the debate here.
There was no public consultation on the abolition of town councils when Fine Gael abolished them with the stroke of a pen despite many objectors. Many local towns have suffered as a result of that decision. As a former mayor of Naas, and as a representative of an area that once had a town council, I have seen the effect at first hand.
In north Kildare, towns like Naas, Leixlip and Newbridge all had town councils, however the towns of Celbridge and Maynooth did not, despite having a population of almost 30,000 between them. There were certainly anomalies in the system, but the large municipal districts which replaced them are certainly also imperfect. Very large administrative areas, which are more than an hour’s drive from one end to the other and lack cohesion or internal leaders are illogical units which poorly serve the towns that are represented.
Few will advocate, in the media or elsewhere, for the retention or advancement of politicians. I will cite one notable example, the late Councillor Willie Callaghan, who was also a former mayor of Naas and the president of the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland at the time, bravely led the charge but he was ignored. His concerns fell on deaf ears, as did those of everyone else at the time. Politicians made for an easy target despite the local services provided by town councils. These small local services, which were provided by a small dedicated body, draw focus to the gap that now exists. It was provided at very little cost. The councillors took a very modest stipend and any staff who were redirected were merely moved into the parent bodies.
I am calling on the Government to consider this Bill seriously and earnestly as there are many merits to local governement reform. I ask the Government to take that on board.