At a packed meeting in the Hotel Kilkenny, attended by trade union activists, local election and European candidates, an overview of the research conducted by Dr. Mary Murphy of Maynooth College concerning the status of local government in Ireland was presented by Adrian Kane, SIPTU Public Administration and Community Division Organiser.
Adrian Kane said that the only conclusion to be drawn from Dr. Mary Murphy’s research is that “local government does not really exist in this country. It is merely local administration”. He went on to say that local government which came into being in 1898 “had more power under the crown than it does in the Republic.”
Brendan O’Brien, SIPTU Local Authority Organiser said that “Local authorities are facing an existential crisis. Their powers are constantly being eroded through the centralisation of functions previously carried out by local authorities, out-sourcing and years of austerity. All these factors have left local government in this country in a sad state.”
The average percentage of government spending delivered through local authorities across the EU is 22%, while in Ireland it is a mere 8%. In Denmark, a country of similar size and population, 64% of all public spending is dispensed through local government.
Adrian Kane said that local government could be re-invigorated if it were given responsibility for reducing carbon emissions within the geographical footprint of the local authority.
“If we leave the targets for reducing carbon emissions to individual government departments it will never happen. It has to be done locally so as people connect with it the issue,” Mr Kane said.
“As part of ‘The More Power To You’, campaign candidates from all political parties will be asked to sign a ‘Power Pledge’. This pledge highlights the need to re-establish town councils. In Kilkenny, this means the return of its own corporation. It also calls for action on the promised referendum on the public ownership of water to be brought forward,” he said.
The unions involved in the ‘The More Power To You’ campaign represent more than 30,000 local authority workers across the country.