Phil Hogan: Reworking dated system will benefit us all
THE reforms to local government announced yesterday are well overdue. More than a century overdue. In fact, local government is arguably the only major part of Ireland's infrastructure in which the basic structures haven't been updated since Victorian times. Putting People First is an action programme to reform structures, modernise systems and build confidence in our system of local government.
Given that it affects more citizens more personally every day of their lives than any other institution of the State, the fact that it has trundled along for so long without radical change is perhaps initially puzzling, but nonetheless understandable: it has served Ireland remarkably well, down through the decades. What was laid down in the late 19th Century was a very good system for the times. It worked well. The times have changed beyond measure, but local authority structures and many aspects of governance did not change with them. This has left discrepancies throughout the country. Some small towns, for example, have their own town council, while larger towns don't.
I also believe that local authority functions have been too narrow, and that we need local government restructured so it can lead economic, social and community development locally. We have failed to use the full potential of our local government system. Putting People First signals the reversal of the decline in local government functions, especially with the move of enterprise and local development to the sector.