Former Limerick mayor says Irish councils have less power than Russian counterparts

Former Mayor of Limerick Dr Diarmuid Scully

A FORMER Mayor of Limerick has claimed that local authorities in Ireland have less autonomy, less authority and less power than their counterparts in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Addressing a Citizens’ Assembly meeting on proposals for a Directly Elected Mayor in Dublin on Saturday, Dr Diarmuid Scully, who is an academic adviser to the Mayor of Limerick Implementation Group, said that the Irish system of local Government is the weakest and most under funded in the EU.

Dr Scully served for 15 years as a member of Limerick City Council where he was leader of the Fine Gael group and was elected Mayor of Limerick from 2005 to 2006.

He claimed that the directly elected mayor of Dublin city is going to be “probably the foremost political position in the country, arguably more powerful than the Taoiseach.”

And it will have a major influence on how the office of a Directly Elected Mayor of Limerick will function.

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“We have gone through this process in Limerick but I get the impression we are hostage to your decisions,” he told the Dublin assembly.

If the mayor of Dublin isn’t given the powers it is going to be hard to give them to the mayor of Limerick. I think both cities need directly elected mayors because we need a thriving Dublin to have a successful Ireland.”

Directly elected mayors with full executive functions would also lead to changes in the Irish system of local government which, he claimed, was badly in need of reform,

“The last report on the Council of Europe Local Government Charter in 2013 found that of the 30 principles laid down in the charter, Ireland was in breach of 22 of them.

“To put that in context, Putin’s Russia, which was still a member, was found to be in breach of seven. In other words, a local authority in Ireland has less authority, less autonomy and less power than a local authority in Putin’s Russia. Our system is not normal,” Dr Scully explained.

“Of the 27 countries in the European Union, we came last. Last in terms of powers, last in terms of functions, last in terms of funding, last in terms of absolutely everything,” he said.

“In 2019, Dr Mary Murphy carried out a study for the Forsa trade union which found that Ireland came 27th out of 27 EU countries on powers, functions and funding of local Government.

He added that most people didn’t realise that Ireland has the fewest councillors per head of population than anywhere else in Europe.