MINISTER Phil Hogan’s ears must have been burning on Tuesday evening as Shannon town councillors criticised his decision to abolish town councils.
The town council’s delegates to the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland, Councillors Patricia McCarthy and Sean McLoughlin addressed the meeting.
Councillor McCarthy said there is a viewpoint that suggests that, as the move goes through the Oireachtas, improvements may be sought. She also said it was important towns be well represented on the municipal districts, which are to be introduced.
Councillor McLoughlin said it was important that as much representation as possible be secured on the new municipal districts.
He didn’t hold out much hope for a rethink. “It’s a done deal, town councils are gone,” he commented.
He said the council has been his “spiritual home” and that all the members have made a contribution to Shannon.
“We might have the odd bark at each other but we’ve all worked for the good of the town.”
He reiterated that it was important town councils seek as much representation as possible on the municipal districts.
Independent Councillor Cathy McCafferty said the move was likely to spell the end of the political career of people such as herself, who are in the early stages of their political careers. She said a person would probably need to get 1,500 votes to win a seat on a municipal district.
Councillor Gerry Flynn noted that running the town council costs less than the Taoiseach’s salary.
With regard to the public’s views on Government, he commented, “Currently, what’s happening is that if you asked the public to abolish the Dáil they would and they would find it hard to differentiate between local councils and highly paid representatives and officials.”
He called on Mayor of Shannon Michael Fleming to contact his counterparts in Ennis, Kilrush and Kilkee and to arrange a meeting to develop a strategy to protect town councils.
Councillor Mary Brennan said there is a very high level of attendance at town council meetings, far better than the level of attendance at many Dáil sittings.
Labour party Councillor Tony McMahon said the abolition was “a regrettable and retrograde step”.
He said the move reflects “a downright cowardly approach to appease critics or the media or the public to a degree”.
He claimed that a number of people who have called for abolition actually stood for election to town councils themselves, something he said was “confusing”.
While the councillor had some words of praise for Clare TD Michael McNamara, a member of his own party, Councillor Gerry Flynn said that when he had been running for Europe, he too had called for abolition.
Councillor Vincent Coleman claimed the minister hadn’t given due respect to long-serving members.
Ultimately, it was decided that the mayor will seek a meeting in Ennis at which all town councillors from around the county will be asked to attend.