BALBRIGGAN'S longest serving town councillor has expressed her 'absolute disgust' at the moves by Environment Minister Phil Hogan, who she has christened the 'Axe Man', to abolish the body.
Cllr Monica Harford, who was first co-opted on to the then town commission in December 1989, has reacted with horror to the reforms. Speaking to the Fingal Independent, Cllr. Harford said: 'We knew there was rumblings that it was on the cards, but we didn't think it was just the case of a stroke of a pen [that it would be abolished]. I thought there would be some negotiations with Balbriggan Town Council or at least when he was making the announcement, there would be some sort of tribute to the work of the town council.'
'I fail to understand it because it can't be for financial reasons,' she said. 'It seems that Fingal County Council will be increased to 40 councillors so how can it make economic sense to abolish nine town councillors on €4,500 a year and increase Fingal County Council by 16. It doesn't make economic sense to me.'
She said that local people couldn't believe the town council was being abolished and they had expressed concern to her about who they would contact in future if they needed assistance on an issue. She said that Balbriggan Town Council celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2010 and now that entire history was being wiped out in the 'stroke of a pen'. 'Balbriggan Town Council was formed when the people decided there was a need for a local authority in the area. It should be the people who decided its future,' she said.
She also expressed disappointment that Minister Hogan, who she has christened the 'Axe Man', had failed to mention Balbriggan Town Council when he was speaking about the local authorities in the Dublin region. She agreed that it would leave a vacuum in the town. 'It's a disgraceful decision. No one man should have the power to do this at the stroke of a pen. If I met him face to face I would tell him that I work every bit as hard as any county councillor, minister or any TD and in some cases, even harder. At the end of the day, I was elected in the very same manner as the Minister.' She said the town council would have to sit down and discuss in detail the proposals but one priority would be to ensure that the Town Hall remains in the hands of Balbriggan people.
'We will also want to continue our annual awards night and we want to keep it in Balbriggan. We also want to ensure that the St Patrick's Day parade and the Christmas lights initiatives are to continue. We will have to take whatever measures are necessary to keep them in Balbriggan. We have lost a lot of our old traditions, we don't want to lose any more,' she said.