Local Democracy At Risk

According to recent media reports the local Town Council in Killarney is about to make a final plea to the Taoiseach not to scrap their assembly as they believe that their town being the tourist “Mecca” that it is should be made an exception to the general plan by Minister Phil Hogan and his government colleagues to terminate the existence of Town Councils all over the State and replace them with some form of municipal authority which would most likely be appointed rather than being elected by the democratic process which has been in place since the foundation of the state and to some degree anyway even long before it when the British ruled this country.  While of course all of us have every sympathy with Killarney’s Mayor Sean O’Grady and his democratically elected Town Council colleagues it is my own contention and firm belief that the whole plan to do away with the town Councils is completely out of order and is nothing less than an attack on local democracy.  So well done to Mayor O’Grady and the local councillors for standing up for the rights of the people who elected them.  By all accounts Mayor O’Grady asked the Taoiseach last November in Killarney if he would meet them to discuss the matter and get the views of the elected representatives. This was followed by a written invitation from Sean O’Grady and an acknowledgement of the letter was received.  The Killarney Mayor it appears has been snubbed by Minister Hogan when he met him at an event in January. The Mayor is reported to have stated that the Minister told him straight out that he would not meet with the Killarney Councillors.

A special commission is said to be reporting back to the Government next month with recommendations on boundaries for the new municipal authorities. So this means that councillors have less than a month to change the minds of the Government.  The Killarney Town Council members apparently feel that its members have been snubbed and ignored by the powers that be and Mayor O’Grady is reported as having said that it is disappointing that they have not heard back from the Taoiseach. As well as sending an official reminder the Mayor stated that they were asking his representatives in Killarney to keep after it as time is tight.

But a Fine Gael Councillor is said to have stated that he never believed the Taoiseach was going to meet the Council and that he was unlikely to do it now. He stated that he felt that if Fine Gael is in favour of abolishing Town Councils it was never on the cards to be honest about it and he added that it was a pointless exercise anyway going to meet the Taoiseach.

Killarney’s only real chance to save their council from extinction could be with a proposal by Councillor Michael Gleeson who wants the European Union to examine the issue. He said the current plan could fly in the face of the Treaty’s attitude towards conferral of power and Government.

While we would love to see the brave members of Killarney Town Council win their fight for the preservation and defence of local democracy it is extremely doubtful if their town will become an exception considering that the Government are fully bent on doing away with all the local town councils., with what are they going to replace these somebody might well ask. But none of us has the answer. In my view it all seems to re-echo the old verse once again though this time perhaps more in an urban than rural context.  “Ill fares the land to hastening death a prey, where wealth accumulates and men decay. For a bold peasantry their country’s pride when once destroyed can never be supplied”. 

In England there are not alone City councils, town councils and rural district councils all of course officially recognised in the same way as are their County councils. Not alone that but every parish in the country has its own local statutory council as well. Why instead of trying to kill off local democracy as the Government now appears to be doing, why cannot we have our local councils on the same pattern as England, Wales and Scotland. While of course we do have to recognise that some local voluntary bodies such as parish or community councils the likes of which we have in Athea are doing some good work in their own way. But unfortunately these are not statutory bodies and do not get next or near recognition or financial assistance from the authorities as they deserve. What we really need is more vibrant local democracy not less as the Government’s latest plans to scrap the existing Town Councils have envisaged.

Late Mary Murphy

The unexpected death of Mary Murphy of Dalton’s Terrace, Athea, which occurred recently, was widely regretted throughout the parish and beyond. Mary was originally a member of the Fealy family of Abbeyfeale but had lived in Athea for several years. She and her late husband David (Sonny) raised a large family who are well liked throughout the locality. . Mary was pre-deceased by her husband some years ago and also by her daughter Marie who was married in the Regional Hospital a few days prior to her death at an early age in 1999 which generated much sympathy for the bereaved husband and her family throughout the County.

There was a big attendance at Kelly’s Funeral Home, Athea on Monday evening April 22nd who came to pay their respects and offer their sympathy to the family prior to Mary’s removal to St Bartholomew’s Church, Athea. The Requiem Mass on the following day and the funeral to Holy Cross Cemetery were also well attended. Sympathy is extended to her sons, daughters, sisters, nieces, nephews, her in-laws and other relatives. ‘May her soul rest in peace’.

Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis

Perhaps the most significant factor emerging from the Fianna Fáil Party Ard Fheis at the weekend was the pro-life stance taken by the overwhelming majority of the delegates on the Government proposed abortion legislation. It was made quite clear at the Conference by the unequivocal passing of all the pro-life motions that a future Fianna Fáil Government or part of Government would not allow abortion for any reason or under any circumstances. This will no doubt become official Fianna Fáil policy from now on.

Well Done Limerick

Congratulations to the Limerick Senior football team on their great victory over Offaly on Saturday afternoon in Croke Park. The Limerick lads gave a very polished display and fully deserved their win.