Updated: 08/02/17 : 04:44:27
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TDs bash 'bags' abolition of borough councils

By Eugene McGloin

BIG PHIL Hogan abolished town councils, including Sligo, with the stroke of a pen four years ago.

Yesterday, an ex junior Minister in Hogan's own Department of the Environment castigated that decision.

The criticism came in a debate on issues raised by local Sinn Fein TD Martin Kenny on proposed changes in local Money Advice Bureaux (MAB) structures.

''We made a bags of doing away with town councils,'' said Labour TD Willie Penrose, speaking in the Dail.

Phil Hogan is now an EU Commissioner but his former government colleague also said the decision had ''destroyed local government.''

Deputy Penrose was supported by current junior Minister Finian McGrath in further 
Dail remarks.

British Rule

Sligo's historic town council had been established under British rule.

It was originally titled Sligo Corporation and later Sligo Borough Council, headed by a Mayor.

The Sligo body also had the distinction, in 1919, of the first-ever elections in Ireland using proportional representation (PR).

Said Deputy Penrose yesterday: ''When we were in government, we made a bags of doing away with town councils.
Destroyed It

''I accept there were some councils where one got elected with only 40 or 50 votes. 

''However, we rushed to regionalise town councils which represented 4,000 people and in the process destroyed local government. 

''I admit we did not keep our eye on that ball,'' the ex junior minister admitted.

The remarks came in a debate where Leitrim TD Martin Kenny criticised plans to regionalise Money Advice Bureaux (MAB).

He feared that ''it is intended to privatise the service -- we do not went to let this service go down that road,'' said Deputy Kenny.

Added the Sligo, Leitrim TD: ''The system works perfectly and without a hitch.''

Deputy Kenny felt this was because of the ''local knowledge and input'' of those involved with MABS.

These included reps from local St Vincent de Paul societies, Gardai and the Department of Social Protection.

Deputy Penrose was also critical of the review group proposing the change and the involvement of Citizens Information Boards (CIB).

''I note,'' said Deputy Penrose, ''the review group is all made up of the CIB. 

''That is like going to law with the devil and the court is held in hell,'' he said.

Deputy Penrose accused the CIB of wanting to ''emasculate the existing structure.''

Bad Decision

Junior Minister Finian McGrath responded by agreeing with the points made on the councils' abolition.

Said the Minister: ''I take Deputy Penrose's point about the town councils. It was a bad decision at the time.''