Carrick-on-Suir’s first citizen used the occasion of Carrick-on-Suir Town Council’s 175th anniversary meeting to call on the Environment & Local Government Minister to give town councils back the powers they have lost rather than abolishing them.
Mayor of Carrick-on-Suir Cllr Patsy Fitzgerald said it was an occasion of celebration, Minister Phil Hogan’s recent utterings regarding local government were a cause for concern and he was generating serious disquiet amongst councillors and officials.
“Will this Carrick-on-Suir Town Council be the last one? If Minister Hogan has his way it is looking increasingly likely,” he asked.
“Minister Hogan, who was a councillor, and should be aware of the great work councillors do is not just threatening to throw out the bathwater and the baby but also the bath.”
Cllr Fitzgerald also criticised Minister Hogan’s warning that councillors and their authorities would be required to take unpalatable decision at times in the interest of community and the country.
“Does the Minister not realise that we, councillors, have taken unpalatable decisions over the last few years; does he think we are not capable of making hard decisions in the future?
“I say to the Minister give us back the powers that were centralised a number of years ago and empower us even more so to be pro-active in managing the affairs of our towns.
“We will embrace any new empowerment and will not shirk from their delivery and our responsibilities,” he said.
The anniversary meeting took place at Carrick Town Hall last Wednesday, October 12, exactly 175 years to the day when 20 prominent property owners assembled with a local magistrate in the police office in New Street to form the precursor of Carrick Town Council.
The meeting was attended by Cllr Fitzgerald’s fellow elected councillors, Town Clerk Michael O’Brien, Town Manager Pat Slattery, Town Council staff, former councillors and officials.
Local government and political dignitaries present included Labour Senator Denis Landy, South Tipperary Co. Council Chairman Cllr Michael Fitzgeald, Deputy Mayor of Clonmel Borough Council Cllr Gabrielle Egan, Mayor of Tipperary Town Cllr Jacqui Finnan, Mayor of Cashel Cllr Maribel Wood and Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland President Cllr Philomena Roche; AMAI Secretary Tom Ryan and Carrick-on-Suir born former Labour Party TD Eamonn Walsh, who is a member of Dublin County Council.
Cllr Fitzgerald said since 1836, the governing administrations from Town Commissioners to Urban District Councils to the present day Town Council had, in their own way, contributed to making Carrick-on-Suir the town it is today; an attractive place to visit and a great place to work and live.
“The current Town Council and elected members have worked hard to listen to, and integrate the concerns of our community to build a vision for a competitive and prosperous Carrick-on-Suir. Together we can apply our efforts, our creativity and energy to realise our full potential,” he said.
In a wide ranging speech, Carrick-on-Suir poet and writer Michael Coady pointed out that the powers of local representatives in Ireland through the 19th century were very limited and mainly concentrated on basic issues of public health, road maintenance etc.
However, the (Carrick-on-Suir) Town Commissioners of the 1860s left us one enlightened legacy in the laying out on part of the extensive Fair Green, of our People’s Park, trees for which were donated by Joseph Rivers of Tybroughney. Such an amenity is not at all common in Irish towns.”
Mr Coady outlined that after Independence, the outstanding achievements of the town’s Urban District Court were social and progressive in the areas of water supply, drainage and above all housing.
“Gradually, from the depressed 1930s on and beyond, the local authority rehoused in its new state-sponsored schemes the many who lived in deplorable conditions in various areas of the town.
“ We take this provision of housing for granted now but it was a huge stride forward in its time, and represented a long, slow climb out of the condition in which the travel-writer (Henry D) Inglis found us in the 1830s,” Mr Coady added.
A Mass of Thanksgiving to mark the Council’s landmark birthday was celebrated prior to the Council meeting in St Nicholas Church by Fr Tom Flynn PP of Carrickbeg/Windgap with Rev. George Cliffe of the Church of Ireland also in attendance.
Mayor Cllr. Patsy Fitzgerald and Cllr. Sylvia Cooney Shehan recited readings, the remaining councillors and Council staff member Ann Dunne recited prayers of the faithful and former councillors Johnny Dowley and Jimmy Hogan carried the gifts to the altar.
In an inspiring homily, Fr Flynn highlighted the importance of local democracy, saying that councillors are elected to do good and to serve the people in their area.
Fr Flynn said our idea of democracy was essentially informed by the Christian view of every human being made in the image and likeness of God and so has a unique dignity.