Minister Phil Hogan’s proposals to eliminate the least expensive layer of local government and further centralise power in Ireland represents another major opportunity wasted by a Government that promised real reform and was given an unprecedented mandate to deliver it.  That’s according to Barry Cowen TD, Fianna Fáil’s Frontbench Environment and Local Government Spokesperson.

Responding to the publication of ‘Putting People First’, Deputy Cowen commented, “What we see this afternoon is a case of the Minister Putting PR First.  Despite the successful spin that the Minister and his handlers have put on the report, this is about cuts – it is not about political reform.

“Hogan’s plan will save some expenditure, but it will further reduce the connection between the citizen and government at a time when we know that communities all over the country are crying out for more transparency in public affairs, more input into decision making and more accountability.

“This Government achieved a massive mandate in the last General Election.  One of the reasons for this was the promises they made about genuine and positive reform of politics.  In Fianna Fáil we support the need for radical transformation.

“We were looking forward to supporting proposals on local Government that would have revived local democracy, ring fenced funding for local services and improved the interaction between communities and their representatives.  Instead however, what we are now seeing is a cynical cost-cutting exercise that centralises more power in the hands of a smaller number of people and is dressed up as radical reform.

“Worryingly, some of the key recommendations arising from the recent tribunals also appear to have been ignored.  There appears to be nothing about enhanced transparency around planning decisions.  Critically, he specifically refuses to create a Planning Regulator as recommended by Judge Mahon to oversee the system and act as a check on the Minister or new more powerful officials.

“Minister Hogan was in a position where he could have genuinely transformed local politics with his proposals.  Instead, we see another election promise broken and a golden opportunity wasted.”