Our Local Elections Are Coming Soon: Demand Action By Our Local Government Representatives by Annette J Dunlea
Have you noticed that you can never get in contact with a politician or a minister when you need them. Now, suddenly they are knocking at our doors, wait there must want something. There is a local election coming up. They are seeking our votes. Someone knocked at the door the other day and asked himself to vote for Fianna Fail he laughed and said I don’t think so, my sentiments exactly! To be fair I don’t think Labour and Fianna Gael are much better in government. Its time to give the independents a chance!! I have heard of many people thinking of voting for Sinn Fein because they are sick to their teeth of the cronyism in Irish politics. The 2014 Irish local elections will be held in all local government areas of Ireland on Friday, 23 May 2014, on the same day as the European Parliament Elections. All city and county councils will be elected. The local electoral areas (LEAs) for the election will be those of the boundary committee’s report published in May 2013, except in the case of Cork city, which retains its 2008 LEAs. The Local Government Bill 2013 is expected to be in force by the election, in which case the existing town and borough councils will be abolished, and new municipal districts will be created within most counties. Generally, one LEA will form a municipal district, but a few districts around larger urban areas will comprise multiple LEAs.
If you are not registered you cannot vote. To check if you are registered log onto checktheregister.ie online. Key in your Province and your County/City Council. If you are not registered the relevant forms are available online here. The Draft Register of voters was published on November 1st. so you can check the Draft Register to see if your name is on the Register at Local Authorities/County Council Offices or at the local Library or local Garda Station. If you can find a garda station open, too many have closed down in rural areas leaving people isolated. National Government has responsibility for the entire country. It is necessary for the service of local communities, providing such facilities as local water supply, sewerage systems, refuse collections, etc. Local Government is made up of both elected members (councillors) and employed members (the Manager and staff of the Local Authority). The Impact of Local Government: Housing and Building, Road Transport / Safety, Water Schemes/ Sewerage, Development Incentives and Controls, Environmental Protection, Recreation and Amenities, Agriculture, Education, Health and Welfare, and Miscellaneous Services. Despite repeated promises by the four main political parties to get more women involved in local politics, only 15 out of 71 candidates standing for Cork County Council in May’s local elections are female. The number of seats on the council is to rise from 48 to 55 to allow for more representation following this summer’s abolition of the 12 town councils in Cork.
In theory the Role of the local councillor is to: to carry out the wishes of the people who elect them. To draw up policies which affect people in their local areas e.g. housing, water supply etc. To organise certain matters of importance to the local community. To control the financial affairs of the Local Authority. To represent the Local Authority on Health Boards, VECs and Harbour Boards. To represent and promote the interests of the local community. There are over one thousand five hundred elected local councillors in the country. They share the responsibilities for finance, policy and development with the Manager. They serve in directing policies and actions. Local Government Elections must be held every 5 years. Every person over 18 years whose name is included in the electoral register is entitled to vote in the local area in which s/he lives. It is not necessary to be an Irish citizen to vote in a Local Election. Persons over 18 years of age who are registered voters are eligible for election to Local Government except persons who are Government Ministers, Ministers of State, Members of the Gardai and the Defence Forces and certain groups of public employees. The grounds for disqualification include failure to pay money due to a local authority and certain court convictions and prison sentences. Candidates must be nominated one month before polling day. There are 31 Local Government Authorities in Ireland – 28 are County Councils and 3 are City Councils. The 3 City Councils are Dublin, Cork and Galway. Each Local Government Authority has a number of electoral areas depending on the population, e.g. Cavan County Council has 3 electoral areas and Meath County Council has 6 electoral areas. In total there are 137 electoral areas in Ireland and each of them elects a number of Councillors. The number of City Councillors to be elected in 2014 is 949.You have a vote and people died for you to get that vote to have a say in the running of your country so use it. Make it count and ask the difficult questions before you part with your vote. It is a privilege denied to many foreigners. A major flaw of our political system is that the ordinary person does not get to contact the top tds and ministers in power but they can contact their councillors so use your vote wisely. Pick someone who is interested in the local community, who holds regular local clinics to meet people and who as a proven track record.
The three main political parties have all suffered a dramatic drop in support in the wake of the spate of controversies around the Garda Siochana, according to a Millward Brown opinion poll. The gardenia look like a secret organisation but to be fair that is true of many government departments and agencies but it is time this changed. I am not surprised we all have falling foul trying to receive clarity from government departments and civil servants. It is time the best and most qualified people got the civil servants jobs and they were not politically appointed. Internal reports and annual reports should be put on the Internet or at least issued to people being interviewed for senior civil service jobs. They often ask about internal reports not published at interviews and you are at a disadvantage if you are not working inside as you are not allowed to access these. It is a way of keeping jobs for their chosen internal staff. Interview results and successful applicants should be published. There should be an appeal system outside the department if a very qualified candidate does not get the job, for external and internal staff to be fair. The civil service should aid the government in power do their job and as best they can despite who is in power. We desperately need clarity and open transparency in all areas of government running and civil service. We need whistle blowers legislation that if there is corruption or practices defrauding the state of funds or bad practice that might bring Ireland into disgrace. Fine Gael, The Labour Party and Fianna Fail have all registered substantial falls in support, to the benefit of Sinn Fein and Independents. I hate the mass of politicians papers I receive before elections. It is expensive and nobody reads them anyway. Why ruin the forests cutting down trees for the paper and pay fees for publishing when they can do radio interviews, write articles in local newspapers, use the social media and their party’s website. Television and local media have a bigger impact anyway.
Its time to play hard ball and tell the politicians no action no vote and raise our concerns. Potholes are everywhere, we lack street lighting and bus shelters around Myrtleville and Carrigaline. What is our road tax and property tax being used for? The local hedges and grass lawns are overgrown from Carrigaline to Myrtleville and Crosshaven and looks shabby in a time when we are desperately seeking finance from tourism. If as much effort was put into the maintenance of roads as the NCT tests we would have brilliant roads! I suspect The NCT is more lucrative for the government. There is far too much lack of government transparency. We have suffered failed promises after last election. We need transparency and automatic evaluation at the end of term of office and accountability, before one secures one’s pension. Failure to do a good job should have penalties. One person should get one job and one pension only after completing 30 years plus service. Still we have no white collar crime punished. We need a charity regulator, a Civil Service Overhaul & Regulator to watch them and have the Ombudsman powers to question them & do investigations and a disciplinary independent board in Seanad. We need to jail corrupt politicians and civil servants. Closure of rural gardai stations and post offices is just not acceptable. That was our logic in retaining these as state services so everyone in the country would have vital core services e.g. like TV, electricity and telephone. It leaves to isolation of the old and rural population. Not everything can be calculated in financial terms. We have lost too many rural services. Many banks are operating on skeleton staff and you haveto do your own lodgement in branch on a ATM and withdraw money outside bank in the ATM. Business customers can only do bank transactions at certain times. The Post office should be able to accept all banking payments, court and state fees. They have more rural branches and longer hours and are fighting for survival.
We want no more rule from Dublin. All major departments, buildings, infrastructure and jobs are kept in the capital in Dublin. We want proper local governance and now. We want job investment and all over the country. Who is going to pay for our recession & kids leaving their families alone in their old age? Our sports, workforce and culture have greatly suffered. What a sad loss to educate our kids to send them abroad for another country to benefit from their skills and education. We give millions in foreign charity when thousands of Irish are homeless and jobless. Nobody in Ireland should be without a home. We need more social housing and business incentives and loans for small to medium size enterprises. We send millions in relief abroad and in children’s allowance to foreigners’ kids working here while some of our kids are homeless and many kids are missing meals. We seriously need to invest in our own country. There is real hardship here. We need to change from our blame culture and look at the treatment of the garda whistle-blower. To be called “disgusting” is very wrong and they wanted justice and to do their job. They only went public after the official channels did not work. There is no whistle blower legislation in place, why? Does the government not want to know what is going on behind close doors? If someone had the courage, support and means to speak out in the banks or auditors we might not have had the huge banking crisis. It happened with banks and again recently with charities salaries the auditors did not contact anyone that huge salaries were being paid. We need to clarify the role of auditors and give them powers and obligation to contact the Seanad if any irregularities occur. They are brought in as the state’s watchdog! Finally, it is time we abolished top executives getting bonuses for doing their job properly. They are paid huge salaries and many have company cars, expenses and other perks already. They do not need to be bribed to do their job properly but there should be a review system that people can be disciplined should they under perform.
After the last elections many people questioned the elected parties about election promises. Their reply was that many things were said to be voted into power. That is just not good enough! We don’t want nor need lies! Vote for someone you can trust and who will serve our community well. It would be nice if people running for local elections submitted articles to their local newspapers telling us what they have to offer and how they can improve our community and Ireland! In essence what will they add to local governance? Can they make it better? Politicians we await your input, we are listening! We, the people, are asking for transparency and accountability, what can you do about achieving this? Will you raise our issues at national level for us? The public should have away of impeaching politicians who under perform or just do not deliver on their promises. It is interesting that Ireland voted to keep the Seanad as a watchdog over the Dail! The Seanad needs to be reformed and to do more spot checks and speak for the public in relation to The Charities Act & The Whistle blowers legislation and important issues e.g. natural justice, human rights, EU law and children. They should have powers to demand the state act or impeach them. They too should be given new role to over see all civil servants and state funded workers and work with the Ombudsman and do something like the Central Bank have a telephone line and e-mail for whistle-blowers! We need change and we want to improve to make Ireland a better place to live and for our kids to return home from working in exile. In a truly democratic society justice and equality must prevail and justice must be seen to be done.