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Proposals to overhaul Ireland’s councils criticised by... Ireland’s councils

The Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland says the revised boundaries could leave rural areas without councillors.

THE BODY REPRESENTING Ireland’s city, county and town councils has criticised the report of the group set up to oversee their biggest overhaul in a century.

The Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland (AMAI) says the nature of the reforms, which abolish independent town councils by merging them with their local county councils, could mean local areas go without any representation at all.

The Boundary Committee, whose report was published earlier today, was asked to revise the internal boundaries for electoral areas by building them around towns which were losing a town council.

Phil Hogan’s instructions for the committee therefore meant members drew the boundaries for the councils’ new ‘municipal districts’ around urban areas – a trait that the councils themselves fear could make the 2014 elections urban-centric.

The rural areas which are now within the same electoral areas as towns could find that the candidates elected to represent them are drawn entirely from the urban area, AMAI says.

For example, Hogan’s home town of Kilkenny – which is one of five larger urban areas to retain its borough council – will be split into two municipal districts, each of which also incorporates rural areas outside the town, and which between them account for 12 of the county’s 24 councillors:

Similarly, Mullingar town is being split across two of Westmeath’s three divisions, which together account for 13 of the county’s 20 councillors.

AMAI says a similar effect could emerge in smaller urban areas which are now the secondary urban area in a larger amalgamated ward.

It has asked Hogan to consider revising the municipal districts so that they include individual electoral wards to ringfence councillors for smaller towns and rural areas.

“No one is arguing that reforms are not necessary but it cannot be reform just for Government to say they have ticked a box,” said AMAI president Willie Callaghan, a member of Naas Town Council which is one of the 80 councils being abolished.

“Local government works best when decisions are taken at the lowest levels, by those who live, work and understand best the needs of their communities.”

Read: Here are the new boundaries for next year’s local elections

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Gavan Reilly

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