Carlow Town Hall
Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin has called on people in towns across Ireland to support the restoration of Town Councils as an issue in the upcoming local elections.
He was speaking in advance of the committee scrutiny of Labour's Bill to restore Town Councils.
Deputy Howlin said: "Town Councils are good for local economies and more balanced regional development. And they are essential to strengthen democracy in Ireland.
"Our democracy is 100 years old but we cannot take it for granted. All over the world, we are seeing bitter political divides and the rise of negative populism that offers no real solutions.
"Town Councils represent responsive and accountable democracy that can efficiently address many of people’s essential needs.
"I was a member of the Government that carries collective responsibility for the decision to abolish Town Councils, but having seen the effect of that decision, I am not afraid to admit that it was a mistake and that Town Councils should now be restored."
In 2014, Bagenalstown Town Council came to a close after 158 years serving democracy in the town, while Carlow Town Council, which has been sitting since 1899, was abolished also.
Town Councils were abolished by then Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan.
Deputy Howlin said:"The new Municipal Districts that were meant to replace Town Councils have not worked as well for towns.
"They are sub-committees of the County Council, with certain delegated function, but they do not have the dedicated focus on town development and they often have much larger areas under their responsibility.
"This change has meant a loss of staff in towns to carry out maintenance and repairs, for example, which slows down the response time to local needs."
He added: "Citizens, trade unions, local businesses and business associations have been calling for the restoration of Town Councils.
"Towns are important economic hubs that serve the wider rural economy and they are essential for regional economic development.
"The lack of an elected town mayor has led to a loss of leadership for the development of towns and a loss of a known, local figurehead to preside at ceremonies and to promote tourism and cultural events.
"Town Councils of old were not perfect. But the real solution should have been to reform and rebuild local democracy at town level, not to sweep everything away.
"A Town Council has a singular focus on the development, prosperity and wellbeing of its town. Labour’s goal is to restore Town Councils in order to give a much needed boost to at least 80 of Ireland’s towns.
"I would call on everyone to support Labour’s call for the restoration of Town Councils at the upcoming local elections."
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