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I call for a debate on the growing democratic deficit in the country. Previously I have spoken on the issue of Seanad reform. We are all awaiting the final report of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government on local government reform. Ireland has the lowest level of local representation of anywhere in Europe next to the United Kingdom. Yet we are talking about abolishing town councils, and merging city and county councils. Having served there himself, I am sure the Leader is unhappy about getting rid of Waterford City Council and moving it – as I understand it – to Dungarvan, which will only raise the cost rather than implement reform. It will also result in less public representation in a country that already has the lowest level in Europe.
I ask the Leader for a debate on the report of the local government efficiency review body published in July which made 104 recommendations, giving widespread scope for changes to local government. It is proposed to reform it now without the input of the elected Members of this House or of local government. This group was appointed by a previous Minister, yet these reforms are now being implemented without being analysed to ascertain if they are appropriate for local government in Ireland. When will the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government finally publish this reform proposal? How can he defend that we will continue to lie at the bottom of the European league table when it comes to local democracy?