Tim Ryan, Oireachtas Correspondent
Local councillors throughout County Tipperary and Limerick have been kept in the dark about the merger of the two county councils and they do not know what will happen in their areas, South Tipperary Labour Senator Denis Landy told the Upper House.
Speaking during a debate on a Bill which will merge both county councils into one entity, he said councillors did not know whether the area they represented now will remain in the same electoral area.
“The cart has been put before the horse,” he said.
Senator Landy said the implementation group established in County Tipperary was supposed to present its report to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government on 31 May but he understood this had not yet been done.
“When this is done and a decision is being made on local government, particularly with regard to boundary changes, we should be given an opportunity to debate it in the House with either the Minister of State or the Minister, Deputy Hogan,” he said.
“We deserve this because it involves our electorate and we should be able to discuss it first hand with people throughout the country. During the referendum campaign I met many councillors from all parties. Many of them asked about local government reform and what it would mean for them. Everybody is concerned about his or her own area. Every Deputy and Senator is concerned about the boundary commission report. It is a topic of discussion.”
For comparisons, Senator Landy said that for every 130 citizens in France, there is an elected representative. Also, in Great Britain the Conservative Government last year re-introduced parish councils with statutory powers because of the failure of local people to engage in local democracy.
“Figures of below 30% and, in some cases, just over 20% were recorded in local elections,” he said. “Therefore, they decided to re-engage with people. Ireland has one of the lowest per capita rates for elected representatives in Europe and to say that we have too many and that this is a cause of inefficiency is a simplistic assessment of the situation.”
Euro funding now secure for Ireland - Hayes
Their resounding endorsement of the “Yes” side in the fiscal treaty referendum showed that voters took heed of the arguments in favour as opposed to those against, Fine Gael Deputy Tom Hayes told the Dáil.
Speaking on a new Bill which allows for the official ratification of the European Stability Mechanism treaty, he said one of the most frequently debated aspects of the treaty was the question of Ireland having access to the necessary funds.
“The ESM will act as a permanent rescue fund for the euro area and soon replace the temporary fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF),” he said. “Establishing a permanent rescue fund for eurozone members is seen as key to safeguarding the future of the currency, with the ESM designed to act as a lender of last resort should members find themselves cut off from market-based financing.”
The ability to access this fund which was essentially an insurance policy could prove crucial to many countries and would allow them to fund public services such as pensions, social welfare payments and health and education services, even in times of financial distress.
“It will also protect participating countries against interest rate hikes in the private markets, as investors become more confident in the financial stability of the eurozone,” he said.
McGrath raises spectre of Famine soup kitchens
The prospect of Famine-like soup kitchen re-appearing throughout Ireland as a result of the bank debt crisis was raised in the Dáil by South Tipperary Independent Deputy Mattie McGrath.
Speaking during a debate on Europe, he said he meets people every day in his clinic, socially or on the streets who tell him they are suffering more than they can bear.
“Young people are being driven to emigration, while the lifeblood is being drained from businesses,” he said. “People are also worried about their pensions and with good reason. Ireland must be treated fairly and that will not be the case until such time as we stand up to Chancellor Merkel and company. We must gain our rightful place among European nations.”
“The time for talking is over and the Government must take action,” he said. “The German and French banks recklessly shovelled money into our banks and regulators in both countries failed. Half of the debt acquired through the bank guarantee cannot and should not be repaid because it was lent recklessly by foreign banks. We should agree to repay perhaps half of it over a longer term of 30 years or more. Ireland is not a bad debtor and will continue to pay its way, as it has always done. We cannot cope with the albatross of debt around our necks which is choking business and frightening the young and old alike. Will the soup kitchens we had during the Famine make a reappearance? We can no longer stand for this.”