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Verdict on 'ethics supreme court'

Madam -- Dr Elaine Byrne regularly puts herself forward and is regularly put forward as some sort of ethical supreme court. In the Sunday Independent last week her claim that local councils comprising a majority of Labour and Fine Gael councillors are somewhat under government control is blatant nonsense. In my nearly 20 years as a city councillor, I have never once been directed by the national party as to how to vote. Similarly she claims that decisions such as those not to properly enforce building regulations were made by councillors. Again, blatant nonsense. We would have no such power to do so.

I want such powers so that I can direct public policy at a local level in the best interests of the public and the needs of our society. Ill-informed commentators, masquerading as experts, set back such a cause and in doing so set back the interests of those who do wish to build an inclusive, transparent, accountable and democratic system of governance.

Councillor Dermot Lacey

Donnybrook, Dublin 4

Elaine Byrne replies: Dermot Lacey is a fine councillor who has served his constituency with distinction. For the last two years I have sat with him on Dublin City Council's strategic finance committee (without payment or expenses) and had an opportunity to see up close the dedicated work that local government does.

It is disappointing therefore that Cllr Lacey attacks me in the manner he has. His party had no difficulty in availing of my ethical supreme court a couple of weeks ago when they gave me FOI documents as part of a column I wrote on these pages on the financial transaction tax.

His colleague, Kevin Humphreys TD, subsequently raised the matter in the Dail with the Taoiseach. I respect Cllr Lacey and hope he would return me due courtesy by not accusing me of naivety. Government representatives at local level are not an independent republic distinct from senior party policy. If this were the case, I would look forward to the press releases by Labour councillors condemning the cutbacks on local government imposed by Labour ministers at Cabinet.

Sunday Independent