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Cllr Dermot Lacey

Representing Pembroke-South Dock Ward on Dublin City Council
Dermot Lacey is a Labour Party Councillor for the Pembroke-South Dock Ward on Dublin City Council. Dermot has been a member of Dublin City Council since 1993, and lives in Beech Hill, Donnybrook.
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 / Cllr Dermot Lacey ƒ Representing Pembroke-South Dock Ward on Dublin City Council


Local Government (Article in Village Magazine)

The following article appears in today’s Village magazine.

“Should I stay or Should I go?” So sang The Clash in their classic hit of the 1980’s. According to “Village” it is a question being asked by many members of City and County Councils, particularly in the Dublin area. In the December issue, former Councillor, Mick Rafferty told us why he was leaving and Fine Gael’s, Gerry Breen, why he was staying. The common feature of both was their sense of defeatism. Mick is calling it a day because he thought the procedures and politicking were too much and Gerry is staying, even though he is unhappy with the ways things work, or more accurately don’t work.

Regrettably Gerry offered no new ideas and Mick retreated to the concept, so beloved of those who actually wield power, of “participative democracy”. A policy that sounds good in theory but ensures in practice that real power remains with the elite.

The picture, Mick painted, of the role of a Councillor, is not one I share. In my sixteen years as a member of Dublin City Council I am proud of a record of achievement that has benefited both Dublin and my own electoral areas. I have also by and large enjoyed the work.

Nor do I agree with Mick’s apparent view that all Councillors somehow share the same agenda and should work as if we are all on some agreed common course. I am a Labour member of the Council. I seek to advance my Social Democratic policies. I do not share the political objectives of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael or Sinn Fein.

Nor do I share the views of the Progressive Democrats, with whose very capable Councillor, Wendy Hederman, I did share an electoral area. We worked well together and I agree that she was a constructive and able member of the Council. I was genuinely sorry to see her depart. However that was her personal decision. She knew the rules before seeking election as did Mick Rafferty himself. The same may not be said for all the others who have resigned their seats. However, it is worth noting that of the sixteen, some went because they were elected to the Oireachtas, others because a political career had effectively been closed off by rivals, one moved to live abroad and some because their personal lives had changed since their initial election.

By and large we as Councillors do not set the rules by which the Council operates. More often than not they are imposed on us from The Custom House. It was from there that the Strategic Policy Committees, Corporate Policy Groups and City and County Development Boards were dreamt up. It is these unproductive structures that impose the wasteful time constraints on Councillors. These are but some of the areas we need to change.

Mick is correct that the Housing – Strategic Policy Committee, chaired by my colleague, former Councillor Mary Murphy, over the last few years published progressive policy papers on housing and related matters. In better times I hope that these yield fruit.

Yet, the reality is that during our “Celtic Tiger” years, as the policy papers piled up, the housing and homelessness list of Dublin City Council rose in parallel. The reality is that these Strategic Policy Committees were designed to contain Councillors rather than empower us. “Keep them busy and they will be less of a nuisance.” We will not however force change by walking away from the problem.

For me Local Government matters. In terms of planning, housing, community development, provision of accessible recreational, cultural and sporting opportunities it is very often the first point of call. The fact that it has been starved of funding over the last decade should not obscure that fact.

Yes, I want real reform and if Village gives me the space I will be more than happy to come back to that in detail future editions.

While the detail of such reform is extensive the essentials are not. If they are to be in any way meaningful they must include:
– An Independent source of funding for Local Authorities and not subject to the whims of the Department of the Environment.
– Reform of the City and County Managers Act creating a new post of Chief Executive Officer – accountable to and appointed by the relevant Local Authority following recruitment through the Public Appointments Commission.
– A directly elected Mayor of Dublin with a five year term and accountable to an enhanced Dublin Regional Authority.
– The extension of the role of the Dublin Regional Authority to include Transport and Planning and subsuming bodies such as the Dublin Transport Authority and the Affordable Housing Partnership.
– Real controls and limitations on electoral spending at local elections.

I sought election many years ago to improve my local community and because I enjoyed the cut and thrust of political life. In one of the many deserving tributes to the late Tony Gregory, one person wrote of Tony’s legal struggle to remain a member of the City Council following the ban on holding the dual mandate. Tony sought to retain his Council seat because he too knew that Local Government matters. The author of that tribute was Mick Rafferty. Mick was right.

I have never regretted my decision to seek election to the Council and my belief that local government is the best model to deliver real reform to Irish Society has intensified over those years. The Public need and deserve a better system. It is time for those who agree with me to “Stand up for Democracy, Stand up for Local Government” and in my case “Stand up for Dublin”.

Dermot Lacey is a Dublin City Councillor representing Pembroke-Rathmines Ward with the Labour Party.

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