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Abolition of councils may be unconstitutional – Martin

Abolition of councils may be unconstitutional

Áine Ryan

GOVERNMENT’S plans to abolish town and county councils may be derailed by a recent amendment to the Constitution. That is the view of Westport Town Cllr Keith Martin, a Labour Party representative, who claims that a 2001 amendment to the 1937 Bunreacht na hÉireann may lead to a legal challenge to Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan’s plans to rationalise the country’s number of town councils.
Cllr Martin said that councillors right across the country are networking to discuss avenues to avert the proposed abolition of their councils.
“We are looking at all angles from political pressure to legal action so as to fight the abolition of town councils.  A legal challenge based on the constitutionality of the proposal to abolish an entire layer of local government is one of the measures being discussed,” Cllr Martin said.
He explained that the 20th amendment enshrines local government into the Constitution and ensures the State recognises its central role. Article 28A states:   “The State recognises the role of local government in providing a forum for the democratic representation of local communities, in exercising and performing, at local level, powers and functions conferred by law and in promoting by its initiatives, the interests of such communities.”
Cllr Martin said: “We believe that this amendment created an expectation, beyond reasonable doubt, that Irish citizens would, under the constitution, have a vote every five years to elect members to their town councils to perform the range of functions also enshrined in the constitution.  This would mean that it would be impossible for Phil Hogan to abolish town councils without the support of a referendum.”
Cllr Martin’s views are echoed by other councillors throughout the country.

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