Independent TD Mattie McGrath is calling for the proposed abolition of town councils and other local authority reforms contained in the Department of the Environments ‘Putting People First’ document to be referred to the President under Article 27 of the Constitution.
Article 27 of the Constitution allows senators and TDs to petition the President to refer a Bill to a referendum if they believe it contains a proposal of such national importance it should be decided by the Irish people.
A Bill can be referred to the President if a majority of senators (31) and at least one-third of TDs (55) sign a petition urging him not to sign the Bill into law until a referendum is held. The President is not obliged to agree to the request however.
“There has never been a more appropriate time for the Government and indeed all members of the Oireachtas to affirm in a real and practical way their commitment to strengthening democratic structures in this country,” said Deputy McGrath.
“It is certainly an issue that has not received the kind of scrutiny it ought to have received and even more so when one observes that the tactics the Government used in seeking to abolish the Seanad are almost identical in their reasoning behind getting rid of the town councils. For instance, Minister Hogan has said that reform of local government will save the taxpayer €420m over the next four years and will lead to a 40% reduction in the number of councillors; this is just another way of saying ‘more money, fewer politicians; a hollow mantra that the people rejected so spectacularly on Friday.
“It is also very noteworthy that during the whole of the Seanad abolition campaign the Taoiseach was constantly invoking the example of Denmark which although it is a country of equivalent size as our own it also has a vibrant and robust democratically accountable local authority structure; in the Putting People First proposals however we are witnessing the complete dismantling of town councils across the country and a decimation of local democratic institutions.”