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The May 2014 Local Council Elections

category national | politics / elections | opinion/analysis author Tuesday May 20, 2014 17:08author by 1 of Indymedia Report this post to the editors

Includes list of potential questions for candidates

The Local Council Elections are taking place this week and it is worth taking a look at what they are about and what main groups other than FF and FG are running whilst relecting on recent history aka the Mahon Planning Tribunal to remind ourselves of how bad things were. Also an attempt is made to devise a list of questions for the candidates when they come canvassing to your door and to get people thinking about what councils do and why you should spend even a few minutes a year to find out more and get them to work for you instead of vested interests.
Sample of local election candidates from Independents, People Before Profit and Workers Party
Sample of local election candidates from Independents, People Before Profit and Workers Party

The Local Council elections take place alongside the Euro MEP elections on Fri May 23rd. There are 31 councils throughout the country. For these elections, all Town and Borough councils have been amalgamated following the notion of saving money and being more 'efficient' Whilst it is true that there are a lot of questions to be asked especially in the past about the running of various councils, a recent study [1] suggests these 'efficiency' drives are counter productive and ultimately make the system less democractic because by reducing the number it effectively increases the number of people represented per councillor.

As we know from the Mahon Planning Tribunal into Planning Corruption which it must be stressed only looked at the Dublin Councils because otherwise the task would have been too enormous, it found rampant corruption which had been going on for years. As the saying goes if there is one bad bank, then they are probably all bad. This is based on the idea that similar practices will be carried out by similar people. In the case of the councils if all the Dublin councils were corrupt and totally hijacked by builders, developers and corrupt councillors and officials, then we can safely assume all the other councils all around Ireland were just as corrupt.

The way to end corrupt is to shine a light onto the daily workings of the councils and to ensure their actions, decisions and finances are transparent. This requires an active and informed public who are willing to scrutinize them and this takes the form of being aware of things like county development plans, upcoming meetings, decisions to be made, who is pushing what and who isn't. If enough people just took an interest in even small sections of the activities of councils and councillors, then the combined effect of thousands of eyes checking over them would amount to significant improved and would automatically lead to them being run more transparently and democratically. For too long both the public were discouraged and themselves too passive.

Fianna Fail came out the worst in the planning tribunal in terms of the numbers of their politicans/councillors who were found to be receiving bribes and 'donations' but Fine Gael weren't much further behind. Labour came out looking considerably better than either. The reason why we see so many new FF candidates is because besides been wiped out at the last election, their reputation was completely tarnished and they figure fresh people and fresh faces is the answer. The question though is why would so many in FF and FG previously have turned corrupt but not in Labour or any of the other smaller parties. The answer must lie in the structure and nature of the party and perhaps to some extent their politics and who they were serving? And those they were serving were the people who were going to make alot of money out of these re-zonings with a little bit for themselves on the way. Given FF and FG are predominately there to serve the interests of the richest layer of Irish society and international capital, despite the endless pronouncements that they are there to serve the people, being the main capitalist parties means it remains their chief task and therefore it is unlikely that the forces which gave rise to the problem of corruption in the first place can be so easily eliminated by simply putting in new bodies.

These local elections then are a good chance to keep these people out and to put in candidates from the Left, Green and Independents who are more likely to serve the interests of the community and given enough time to crack open the structures and practices to make local government more democratic and responsive to the needs of their constituents.

Some of the main groups which should be given serious consideration are: People Before Profit candidates, Green Party (since they have been good in local government previously), Sinn Fein, some Labour candidates, Workers Party and the many Independents who are up front about what they plan to do, have good policies, and show a genuine interest in serving the needs of the community rather than vested interests. This task requires doing a bit of work to figure out who they are. There are also a few relatively new parties or movements which people should make time to find out more about and read up on and these are the People's Movement candidates, Direct Democracy Ireland and Fis Nua. The last group recognise resources are finite, the issue of Peak Oil and the need for a 'steady-state' economy.

There are a large number of independents running and they should do well but of those on the Left People Before Profit Alliance are running a fairly large number at 43 and a good number of these should get in. Sinn Fein will also do extremely well and as a rule they work very hard and closely on the ground in the communities they represent. However a question mark to some degree hangs over their Left credentials because in the North at the national level, they have helped in the implementation of austerity as dictated from Westminister.

A word should be made about the Socialist Party. Whilst they are running Paul Murphy for the Euro Elections and Ruth Coppinger for the Dublin West by election, a check of their website shows nothing for the local elections and it would seem that they aren't running any candidates.

Update: In fact the SP help setup and support the Anti Austerity Alliance which ran a number of candidates. Their website is: http://antiausterityalliance.ie/

Left, Green, Independent and Other Parties running local election candidates

So many people wonder when they see the posters for council candidates or when they get the leaflets through the door; what will these people actually do and why should they vote for them. This is best handled by throwing up a list of questions to ask the candidates as they call to the door and it is a good way of helping to make a decision as it gets you to think about what councils do and what your role should be and how you can have some say in the direction of council decision of your area. So for starters it is well worth looking up your local council website and just browsing around and seeing what are some of the things there.

As to the questions for the candidates, for starters here are some potential ones, with a general focus on the council issues but there is no harm starting off with some of the national issues

List of Potential Questions for Candidates

  • Where do you stand on the water charges?
  • Are you opposed to the privatisation of Irish Water ?
  • Where do you stand on the Property Tax?
  • Do you think the bank debt should have been paid or cancelled ?
  • Will the council be charging for sewage next ?
  • How much money does the council get from central government and how much from local taxes like rates?
  • What are the main costs for the council other than wages?
  • You may have specific local questions relating to: playgrounds, football/GAA fields, skate/bike park, local walking paths through
    parks, along rivers, between estates.
  • You may have questions about rubbish along certain roads, public areas like rivers, fields, sports grounds.
  • You should ask about the next council meetings and what is on the agenda. What will be voted on?
  • You should look at the local county plan for the next 5 years. Find out what is in it and if anything affects you?
  • If the candidate is a councillor already, ask about any rezonings that were done especially during the boom and where they stood on it.
  • Ask about local markets, events, sports, community events, health, education, environmental etc.
  • If the council website is deficient or lacking, point this out and provide constructive ideas. Suggest that a breakdown of finances is
    provided online.
  • Ask about any development planned in the area or major planning permissions. And then follow up on it.
  • If your area is say lacking sports grounds or similar facilities, ask the candidate what they are going to do about it.
  • There might be areas in your council that look public but maybe the grass is never cut. This can be a sign it is privately owned and
    also means some developer could stick apartments on it at any time. Instead it might be an ideal bit of land to add to the local
    sports facilities that it is possibly adjacent to. Maybe it could be the new clubhouse, BMX (bike) track, playground or whatever.
    For example, the council may have to buy the land. Discuss how it might be purchased. Different types of funds could be tapped into
    depending on what its eventual use will be.
  • Ask about local services like libraries, parks, swimming pools, tennis courts, recycling centres.
  • Ask the candidates if they are already councillors, what conferences or travel they may have done for the council and why and what benefit was there, if any.
  • Ask the candidates about social housing and rent controls, etc
  • Query the candidate as to how exactly they are going to represent you? Are they going to come back to you for your opinion and input? What
    is the mechanism if any ?
  • Ask about the role of the party whip -this applies especially to the big parties like FF and FG because the party whip can and does
    instruct members to often vote completely against things that they stood for in the elections.
  • Ask if they will work to reverse the situation where the council chairman who is not elected, can overrule the whole councils on certain decisions.
    For example in Dublin City Council, the council chairman consistently ruled in favour of the Poolbeg incinerator and thereby got the council
    to spend over €60 million euro and to sign commercial contracts and yet the entire elected council voted several times against this mad project.
    This same individual is now going to a plum job in Irish Water. The power of the chairman was not always like this and is a result of a change made by
    FF sometime in the 1950s.
  • Ask the candidate about farmers markets and promotion of locally produced food. If there is none in your areas, ask why there isn't?
  • Ask the candidate about their view on genetically modified (GM) crops and GM food -this is probably quite important for many of the rural councils.
  • If there are issues of anti-social behaviour in your area, ask the councillor candidate what they plan to do. Perhaps it is related to lack
    of facilities, or drug issues and so on. Inquire about these too.
  • Ask the candidate if they will be attending all the council meetings and if they will be reporting back on their own websites
    and indicating which way they are going to vote on particular council issues.
  • Road safety could be an issue in your area and if so, you could ask about ramps, road calming measures, better signage, fixing of potholes
    and bad surfaces.
  • Public transport and location of bus stops, lack of bus shelters, seating etc could be issues in your area. Ask about these. Perhaps
    a minor re-routing of a bus service could be of benefit to more people.

As one can see the list of potential questions is endless and can be very specific to where you live. The key thing though is to start thinking about them and to have questions ready in advance so that when council candidates call to your door, you just don't end up glad handing them and letting them off easily without raising particular concerns you have about your area, but just couldn't remember at that moment.

[1] Local Authority Structures and Administrative Boundaries: Evidence From The United Kingdom and Other Jurisdictions, Political Science Working Paper Series 2005/2006 - Paul Carmichael, Neil Collins and Aodh Quinliva

[2] http://www.boundarycommittee.ie/ Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee Report 2013 and Putting People First - Action Programme for Effective Local Government (Oct 2012) http://www.environ.ie/en/PublicationsDocuments/FileDown...n.pdf

[3] Non Party/Independent candidates for the 2014 Local Elections

[4] Local Elections 2014 page links for City and County Council websites

[5] http://electionsireland.org/results/local/2014local.cfm

[6] http://irishpoliticalmaps.blogspot.ie/2012/06/irish-loc....html

[7] WeTheCitizens

Sample of candidates from The People's Movement
Sample of candidates from The People's Movement

Word Document Local Authority Structures and Administrative Boundaries: Evidence From The United Kingdom and Other Jurisdictions, Political Science Working Paper Series 2005/2006 - Paul Carmichael, Neil Collins and Aodh Quinliva 0.27 Mb PDF Document People Before Profit - Local Election Manifesto 2014 0.53 Mb

 #   Title   Author   Date 
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   Ruth Coppinger (SF) elected Dublin West by Election     hack    Sun May 25, 2014 10:25 
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   Candidates from Co. Clare who signed the Fracking Free Clare pledge     T    Sun May 25, 2014 16:54 
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   FG dirty tricks against People Before Profit exposed in election campaign in Inisowen, Donegal.     punter    Thu Jun 19, 2014 10:23 
 10   Sample election literature from AAA     T    Thu Jun 19, 2014 23:57 

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