Letter to Editor: Council cuts were an attack on democracy

Phil Hogan

Victoria White (Irish Examiner, May 23) on the progressive diminution of the powers of local government resonates very strongly with me. 

During 2013 and 2014 as the then minister for the environment, community and local government, Phil Hogan implemented his savage attack on real local democracy, I wrote and spoke at considerable length on the damage that excessive centralisation would do. 

In your newspaper, editor, and in your now sister newspaper, The Irish Times, I wrote in some detail of how Minister Hogan’s proposals would damage not just the towns about to lose their councils but also the surrounding areas with which they interacted economically and socially.

At that time Big Phil said he had served for quite some time on a local authority and he knew “how little they achieved”. 

I said then and I now repeat that if that statement is true, it reflects very poorly on him as a politician elected to enhance the lives of the people he represented.

I was a member of Killarney Town Council from 1994 to 2014 and I can quite truthfully say that my colleagues and I, with the very active support of the council officials and the cooperation of the general public, worked diligently to transform the town and urban area. 

That work was made possible by the finances that were available primarily from the rates collected from commercial properties. 

The enhancements that resulted have made Killarney a much more attractive destination for visitors and, therefore, the tourist industry has grown and businesses have prospered. 

This growth has, of course, generated employment for people from the wider area and has increased demand for locally produced produces from farms and market gardens.

Since 2014 because all monies collected from rates go the county coffers there is less available to continue to progress the vital economic hub that was/is Killarney.

What is true for Killarney is undoubtedly equally so for other towns that have been stripped bare by the arrogance and lack of understanding of the Fine Gael/Labour coalition government of that time and of the then main opposition party, Fianna Fáil.

During canvassing for the recent local election a question frequently asked was: Is there any hope that the town council will be restored? 

I could but sadly shake my head and say that such was a forlorn hope. 

There are many now, council colleagues and Oireachtas members, who realise that 2014 was a bad year for the principle of subsidiarity.

I’m very sorry, Victoria, that at the time of dismantling you took no notice. 

Those of us who sought to resist the onslaught would have appreciated your active support. 

Your only consolation is that you were not alone. 

Your challenge now is to prove that the pen may, in time, prove to be mightier than the dastardly deeds of pathetic politicians.

Michael Gleeson

Kerry Independent Alliance

This reader's opinion was originally published in the letters page of the Irish Examiner print edition on 31 May 2019.

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