Minister Phil Hogan’s reform plans for local government were slammed as a “serious attack on local democracy” at meeting of South Tipperary County Council on Monday.
Fine Gael elected representatives were told they should be leading the fight against the abolition of the town councils and Clonmel Borough Council instead of being led like ‘lambs to the slaughter’ by Cllr. Pat English.
Labour Cllr Bobby Fitzgerald accused the two government parties of making an “absolute balls” of the reform plan.
“How can one councillor represent 4,800 people without ending up in the mental home,” said Cllr. Fitzgerald who said he was not happy with how the Labour Party had performed on the issue.
At the meeting former FG member and now independent councillor Tom Wood clashed with Fine Gael’s Cllr. Michael Fitzgerald when discussing a motion tabled by Cllr.Wood which called on Deputy Tom Hayes to attend a meeting to clarify issues and listen to the concern of members in advance of any Dail vote on the reform package.
His motion was seconded by Cllr. Denis Leahy who said urban Ireland had been abandoned in the plans with every town losing its town council.
Cllr. Michael Fitzgerald said he would not like to see a situatin where TDs would be expected to attend a meeting prior to the Dail discussing every piece of legislation.
Cllr. Wood said that was not his intention, the reform plan was one of the most important issues ever to arise and he felt it would be appropriate for the TD to attend.
Cllr. Fitzgerald said nobody knew “what was coming down the track” on the matter. He suggested they could meet Deputy Hayes as a group to discuss the matter and provide him with an outline of the discussion that had taken place at the meeting.
Cllr. Wood said it was a sad reflection on Fine Gael and the deputy if he had advised councillors in advance of the debate of the motion that he was not prepared to come to a meeting.
Cllr. Fitzgerald said he had not spoken to Deputy Hayes about the motion and suggested that Cllr.Wood may have a ‘personal gripe’ with the deputy.
“That is a childish response” Cllr. Wood told Cllr. Fitzgerald.
Cllr. Fitzgerald said he had no problem in inviting Deputy Hayes to a specially convened meeting depending on the amount of submissions made on the matter by the members.
Cllr. Sylvia Cooney Sheehan saw no reason why Deputy Hayes should not attend a meeting of the council.
“That’s part of his job, he is getting well paid for it,” she said.
The Carrick on Suir councillor said the town was losing its council at the stroke of a pen. People took great pride in representing the town.
“I would have no problem sitting on the town council for no money but I was not given that option,” she said.
Councillors Siobhan Ambrose and Richie Molloy suggested inviting all Oireachtas members from North and South Tipperary to a meeting to discuss the reform.
Cllr. Liam Ahearn said a special meeting should be called once members had made submissions on the matter.
Members decided to hold a special meeting and submissions from members were to be lodged prior to that meeting.