A row broke out yesterday after Cork East TD Tom Barry (FG) said Midleton Town Council “couldn’t and shouldn’t use” €50,000 of taxpayers’ money to stop Mr Hogan from axing the town councils next year.
“People don’t give money to town councils for it to go into litigation. I think this will go down really poorly with the public. If there was a poll done in Midleton, I believe the people would say no. They could have used the money for something better. It’s bizarre,” Mr Barry said.
However, Mayor of Midleton Ted Murphy (Ind) defended the move, saying it would be money well spent protecting local democracy.
“We were saving that money for a number of years to fight for a boundary extension to the town. It didn’t come from rates, it came from development charges and from some money which wasn’t spent on conferences,” Mr Murphy said.
All but two of the county’s 12 town mayors attended a meeting that Mr Murphy organised in Midleton on Monday night, where they backed his proposal to take legal action against Mr Hogan.
“Tom Barry was invited to that meeting but he didn’t come,” Mr Murphy said.
The Mayor of Clonakilty, Cllr Cionnaith O’ Súilleabháin (SF), said people were annoyed that Phil Hogan had previously promised he wouldn’t abolish town councils.
Both he and Mallow Mayor Noel O’Connor said such a step would be a retrograde move as town councils had lower rates that those of the county council-controlled areas and, if abolished, businesspeople would have to pay much more.
However, the Mayor of Fermoy, Cllr Michael Hanley, who didn’t attend the meeting, said he favoured abolishing town councils as “they had no role to play in seeking quality jobs”.
“If you compared Fermoy Town Council to a normal business you’d say it was nearly bankrupt. There must be significant, worthwhile changes in local government and Minister Hogan should spell these out in detail,” Mr Hanley said.
Mr Murphy said if the Association of Municipal Authorities, the representative body for the country’s town councils, fails to join the legal action then Midleton Town Council would go it alone. “It may seem that €50,000 isn’t much for a legal action but I believe we will get financial support from other sources,” Mr Murphy said.
The Local Authorities Members Association will discuss the possibility of joining the legal challenge at its AGM in New Ross next month.
What some town mayors are paid annually in allowances:
*Gillian Coughlan (Bandon): €5,566.
*Cionnaith Ó Súilleabháin: (Clonakilty) €8,667.
*Sinead Sheppard (Cobh): €11,366.
*Michael Hanley (Fermoy): €11,000.
*Noel O’Connor (Mallow): €5,000.
*Michele Hennessy (Youghal): €7,036.