Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Email to the members of Seanad Eireann

I am sending the following email (or slight variations of it) to ALL the members of Seanad Eireann. The evisceration of local government by Minister Phil Hogan and this coalition has, so far received little or no examination or exposure. I am convinced - having listened to everyone from the editor of The Irish Times in a recent speech, to speaking myself to academics well versed in the area - that the Ministers planned bill represents nothing more than a severe cut to an entire layer of local government and certainly not the real reform that he claims it to be. Every town in the country is to lose their town council and in our case, Waterford City is to lose its independent self-governing City Council status. I want to say that I firmly believe there ought to be serious reform and serious sharing of services but that should take place in consultation with local communities and it should comprise of real reform. Real devolution of power from the centre and not just lip service to reform while in actual fact wielding the scalpel to same. I have been somewhat taken aback at the lack of any examination of the issues, figures and claims emanating from the Ministers Press Office on this issue. It is not my experience that the media is prone to accepting what the Government spin doctors issue, as gospel.

The people of Ireland have demonstrated through the Seanad Referendum that they value our democratic institutions. I fought for the retention of the Seanad and for real reform to be introduced as opposed to just cuts. I now ask the Seanad to fight for nothing more or less than the same thing for Local Government.

Anyway, the email is self explanatory. I have sent five to date and will hopefully get the rest off this week. It is my last attempt to save local democracy and the independent self-governing status of my city, Waterford.

Dear Senator  ----------,

As you may remember I took a fairly active role on the NO side during the Seanad Referendum Campaign delivering leaflets and online. I firmly believe that real reform, as espoused during that campaign - as opposed to cuts is the way forward for the Seanad and for our democratic institutions. This leads me on to the purpose of my email. I am pleading with you and the other members of Seanad Eireann to oppose in a meaningful way Minister Phil Hogan's attempt to impose cuts without any meaningful reform in the area of local government.

I have read the legislation and consulted with academics in the area and all say the same thing - that this bill does nothing to reform local government. Further, that it merely cuts an entire layer out as well as crucially in my particular case, taking away Waterford City's independent self-governing status. And to add insult to injury, this, during the historic 1,100th anniversary of the oldest city in Ireland. And all this without any public consultation whatsoever. At the very least I would hope that you and the members of Seanad Eireann might insist upon the same yardstick being applied to local democracy that you sought for the Seanad: real reform, not simply cuts.

I would ask that you might consider taking a stand on this matter and oppose the evisceration of local government in Ireland. The Seanad should, in my opinion, demand very high standards for democracy and demonstrate that it is prepared to protect those standards further than just their own institution - as they were protected by the public who themselves obviously value our democratic institutions very highly - as evidenced by their rejection of the Seanad abolition. I am aware that the Seanad has limited powers but I am convinced that at the very least it should delay the bill for as long as possible (90 days) and that a rejection of the bill might impress upon the Minister and the Government that someone is prepared to stand up to them in the name of democracy and might force, if not a rethink, then at least a deferral and that local communities might be consulted with as to whether they wish to lose or retain their nearest democratic institution be that a town or in my case, city Council.

Many thanks ----------.

I look forward to your response.

Councillor Mary Roche
Waterford City Council