STEMMING THE TIDE Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin pictured in Westport during his two day tour of Mayo with Dara Calleary TD and local party members Declan Dever, Joan Geraghty and Michael Chambers. ?Pic: Henry Wills
‘Why get rid of town councils like Westport?’ asks Martin
Towns like Westport show how important town councils are. That was the view of Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin who lashed out at the abolition of town councils when in Westport last Thursday.
Deputy Martin described the plans to abolish town councils under Minister Phil Hogan’s local government reforms as a ‘retrograde’ step.
“I’m very opposed to the abolition of the town councils myself,” he told The Mayo News at Carraig Donn, Westport during a tour of the county. “I’m a great believer in democracy, the will of the people. When I studied political philosophy I became absolutely converted to the idea that it is the will of the people that matters at local and national level.
“Westport is the example of a town council that has worked. I mean this is a fantastic place, the best place in Ireland to live in from The Irish Times and winners of numerous other awards. Why would you abolish the town councils? It is not costing a huge sum of money.
“It is basically about local people coming together to help their local town. That is what a town council is fundamentally all about. I know my own county of Cork [with town councils like] Clonakility, Kinsale, [where] a bit like Westport the town councils were key with the local community in partnership with the private sector and community groups that made and transformed those towns and likewise here in Westport. Why abolish that? I think it is a retrograde step, it is bad for democracy,” he said.
He said that the party in the county was taking a wait and see approach with regard to candidates for the 2014 new municipal district elections but that they were looking to grow their councillor base.
“We’re looking at all areas where there are gaps. We’ve a good enough councillor base across Mayo, compared to other counties but we could do better obviously and we’ll be looking at candidates who can come forward and win local election seats for us but it depends on how Phil Hogan reorganises the boundaries. He’s a bit slow at that. It is difficult to be specific in our planning until that happens. We want younger people to come forward, we want more women to come forward. We need more women in the party, we need more women to stand for the party and we need younger people as well,” he said.
Citing Fianna Fail Area Representative for Mayo Lisa Chambers, Micheal Martin said that young people are coming forward to represent the party but admitted the party has to ‘renew trust with people’.
“Of course we reached a very low point during and after the last general election but since then we’re renewing the party. We’ve to renew trust with people, I understand that. There’s a long journey ahead of us but we’d a fantastic Ogra conference, we’d 4,500 people at the Ard Fheis, we moved to one member, one vote where members have a far greater say in the party than they once had and we’ve more and more young people coming into the party.
“Young people are coming forward. For example in the universities and the institutes of technology this year we’d a 40 per cent increase in membership compared to last year. That’s very, very encouraging. Hopefully we can persuade young people to consider contesting the local elections as well,” he said.
Deputy Martin spent a total of two days in the county visiting the party’s grassroots in Westport and also in Achill, Ballina, Ballinrobe, Ballyhaunis, Castlebar and Claremorris. See more coverage of the visit in next week’s issue.
HAVE YOUR SAY email firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments