The merger of North and South Tipperary Councils into a single Tipperary County Council is being described as a 'retrograde step for Roscrea' by Chairman of Roscrea Community Development Council, Mr. John Lupton. A long time advocate of more meaningful and participative Local Government, Mr. Lupton believes that the move to unify the two Councils will diminish rather than enhance Local Government overall and, in the case of Roscrea, which will be further isolated in the very top of a huge county, may serve to 'further disempower' the people of the town. News of the merger of the two Councils came as a surprise but not a shock when it was learned last week with even some Councillors totally unaware that such an announcement was to be made.
The general feeling was that the announcement by Minister Hogan threw up more questions than it answered and it is understood that both the Mayor of North Tipperary County Council, Cllr. Michael Lowry, and the County Manager, Mr. Joe McGrath, and their counterparts in the south of the county, are making arrangements to meet with the Minister to establish further details about that the merger will mean to them. In making his announcement last week, the Minister said that much of the detail will not be made known until March of next year, but elected representatives and Council staff are said to be unhappy about this.
Reacting to the news in a statement this week, RCDC Chairman, Mr. John Lupton said 'If the proposed merger of the County Councils of North and South Tipperary were to take place in the context of true local government reform, I would welcome and applaud it. However, as it is effectively, I believe, proposed that it will take place outside of, and apart from, such a process despite the predictable protestations to the contrary. I would say the proposal, at best, represents a missed opportunity to bring about meaningful local government reform. However, in the context of Roscrea with our present state of marginalisation and isolation as being the only town of its size without a town council in the county, our marginalisation and isolation will now be greater and more pronounced in the larger county context.'
He continues 'True Local Government reform can only be built from the bottom up, recognising the dignity and equality of all citizens and thus the equal right of all communities to parity of democratic representation. The proposed merger of the County Councils of Tipperary gives no cognizance whatsoever to this principle. Instead it is based on perceived economic expediency and a greater centralisation, rather than a greater decentralisation, of local government.
I have long suggested that all towns and areas of population should have parity of democratic representation i.e. have "town" or "community" councils on a statutory basis. These should all, however, I believe, be on a voluntary basis and without the trappings associated with existing town councils.
'The administration and provision of local government services could be provided on a county, or even on a regional basis and thus avail of economies of scale. Each voluntary "town" or "community" council would have decision making powers as to how services would be delivered in their areas. Thus we would have the seeds of democratic reform (i.e. participative democracy, at "Town" or "Community" Council level) empowered and working complementary with representative democracy (i.e. at County and Regional Councils) with the latter providing economies of scale in the administration and delivery of local government services.'
'Local Government, which ignores the right of citizens to a meaningful participative role on the basis of equality and parity of democratic representation, contradicts the very concept of "Local Government". In so far as this proposed merger ignores such a principle, the proposal, I believe, will diminish "local government" as a whole, but, it will diminish it more in the case of Roscrea, where we have no statutory council. Thus for Roscrea, this is a retrograde step. Rather than facilitating greater empowerment and participative democracy among the citizens of Roscrea, this merger may serve to further disempower the people of Roscrea and ensure that we are further removed from the workings of "Local Government",' says Mr. Lupton.
The Midland Tribune