On my way to work I pass a poster for Fred Gilligan of Fianna Fail, and take note of his declaration that he has a new face, which is nice. But it gets me thinking: Why are we bothering electing 1600 councillors?
Consider this: If a county council refuses to set a budget, the minister abolishes the council, and appoints a commissioner in its place. The council continues in its work, the only difference being that the person scrutinising the work of the council is an official with expertise in local government, and who does not want to be a TD. In other words, the commissioner probably does a better job than the elected councillors.
I have friends running for the council. They are good people, but the only real reason they are running is because it is the entry level into the Dail, not because they have any interest in local government. Go on, ask the next candidate to promise not to run for the Dail. Some will, most will dance around the issue with more clauses than a North Pole family reunion.
Sure, councillors say that they help people, etc, but that is because the same political system has made sure that our public service cannot be accessed easily by the public. The public needs an elected rep to act as a kind of sherpa to help them through the thick undergrowth and treacherous mountain passes of our public service. In other proper countries (I’m looking at you, Finland, Denmark and Sweden.) the citizen takes an express lift to the top of the public service mountain, where there is a breathtaking view, creche facilities and a charming coffee shop selling tasty and reasonably priced home-made pastries. And where councillors debate policy as opposed to dispersing favours like some form of medieval lord.
Having said that, I suppose we should be lucky that our councillors don’t go about claiming the ancient right of Primae Noctis, that is, to “take” a virgin’s virtue. Probably because they can’t claim for it.
Interesting piece from Peter Murtagh in The Irish Times about the issue here. Local government, that is, not deflowering virgins. This isn’t the Sunday Indo, you know.