Environment Minister Phil Hogan is the “greatest enemy to local democracy” this country has ever encountered, a local councillor has claimed.
That was the scathing appraisal given by Independent Cllr Gerry Warnock this week as he summed up the Minister’s time in office over the past two-and-a-half years.
In a notice of motion submitted at Longford Town Council’s first meeting of 2014, Cllr Warnock questioned the practices Mr Hogan and others were taking in connection to local government.
“In light of the centralist policy being pursued by the Government of stripping local authorities of their traditional functions I think elected members, as well as the staff working within the local government sector, are entitled to a comprehensive answer from the Minister,” he said.
A vocal adversary of Mr Hogan in the past, Cllr Warnock continued his attack by reading an Irish Independent newspaper extract from December 23.
Entitled ‘Taxman could be used to chase €770m council debt’, he derided the Government’s local government reform document ‘Putting People First’.
Cllr Warnock said the initiative was doing the exact opposite, leaving voters effectively voiceless.
“It (Putting People First) was brought in with great fanfare, promising to give more democracy to the citizen,” he explained.
“What is happening is local authorities are being denuded of their traditional services and functions, things like housing, driving licences and the like.
“How in the name of Jesus is that giving more democracy to the citizen?”
Cllr Warnock continued to vent his anger about Minister Hogan.
“He (Mr Hogan) is the greatest enemy to local democracy this State has ever encountered over his centralist policies,” he stormed.
Cllr Tony Flaherty was among those who backed the assessment.
He recalled a similar speech he have back in 2011, warning of the likely “hatchet job” Mr Hogan was looking to impose on the workings of local government.
“I told you all after the local elections at the time that he (Mr Hogan) planned to get rid of town councils,” he told last Wednesday’s monthly meeting.
“And what has the Government gone and done under this Environment Minister? He has destroyed local democracy.”
Cllr Mae Sexton was another to condemn the policy pursued by Mr Hogan and government leaders.
Despite her criticism, she said Mr Hogan was not the only politician to blame for local government changes.
“It’s (abolition of town councils) a done deal,” she stated.
“Coming from a minister of the calibre of Phil Hogan, I am not surprised.
“He really is determined to crush people with endless taxation.
“Mind you, he is not doing it on his own,” she concluded.