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The Local Government Reform Act 2014 is an act of the Oireachtas providing for a major restructuring of local government in the Republic of Ireland with effect from the 2014 local elections. It merged some first-tier county and city councils, abolished all second-tier town and borough councils, and created a new second tier of municipal districts covering rural as well as urban areas. It also provided for a plebiscite on whether to create a directly elected executive Mayor of the Dublin Region (distinct from the existing ceremonial office of Lord Mayor of Dublin city) although this provision was not activated. The act was introduced as a bill on 15 October 2013 by Phil Hogan, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, and signed into law on 27 January 2014 by President Michael D. Higgins. Most of its provisions came into force on 1 June 2014.
The Local Government Act 2001 replaced the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 as the main basis for local government in the state. It redesignated the "urban district councils" and "town commissioners" as "town councils" without substantive changes to their existing powers, which were relatively slight for urban districts and even more so for commissioners. Various plans for more fundamental changes to the local government system have been made both before and after the 2001 Act. After the 2011 general election, the new Fine Gael–Labour coalition's programme for government promised reform and rationalisation of local authorities, both to enhance democratic accountability and local power, and as part of a broader range of spending cuts in response to the state's ongoing financial crisis. In 2011 and 2012, local commissions recommended the mergers of three pairs of neighbouring first-tier local authorities: North and South Tipperary, Waterford City and County, and Limerick City and County. In 2012, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government published Putting People First — Action Programme for Effective Local Government, which outlined the changes planned for the prospective bill. The minister established a boundary commission to define local electoral areas for the 2014 election, including the Action Programme within its terms of reference.
Provision for directly elected mayors was included in the 2001 Act but repealed in 2003 without having been invoked. The idea of an executive mayor for Greater Dublin was given impetus by the establishment of a Mayor of London, and was promoted by the Green Party in the 2007–11 government. A bill to that effect was introduced in 2010, lapsing when the Dáil was dissolved for the 2011 election.
The main provisions are summarised in the Act's long title:
- An Act to make further and better provision in relation to local government and, in particular, to amalgamate Limerick County Council with Limerick City Council, Waterford County Council with Waterford City Council and North Tipperary County Council with South Tipperary County Council, to provide for the position of chief executive in relation to each local authority, to dissolve town councils, to make provision for municipal districts, to assign additional reserved functions to local authority members, to dissolve County Development Boards and City Development Boards and make provision for the establishment of Local Community Development Committees, for planning and oversight of Local and Community Development Programmes, to provide for an increased role for local authorities in economic development and enterprise support, to amend the Local Government Act 1991 and provide for regional assemblies, to enable (subject to certain preconditions) a plebiscite to be held in the administrative areas of the local authorities in the Dublin area in respect of a directly elected mayor for that area and for those and other purposes to amend the Local Government Acts 1925 to 2013, the Local Elections Acts 1974 to 2012 and other enactments relating to elections, the Housing Acts 1966 to 2013 and the Planning and Development Act 2000, to amend other Acts in connection with the foregoing matters, to amend section 20 of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act 1997 and to provide for related matters.
The merged North Tipperary and South Tipperary was a county called Tipperary, restoring the county's administrative unity for the first time since 1838. The merged Limerick and Waterford areas was designated a "city and county", otherwise equivalent to a county.
Except in the Dublin Region, all counties (including the two "cities and counties") were subdivided into two or more second-tier units called "municipal districts". The districts which include Limerick and Waterford cities are "metropolitan districts" and those including an existing borough are "borough districts"; both names conferring the right for the chairperson of the district council to be called "mayor". Each district comprises one (or, occasionally, more than one) local electoral area; the district councillors also serve as the area's county councillors.
The position of county/city manager" was replaced by that of "Chief Executive". Existing managers were the initial chief executives, with county/city councils gaining the power to veto subsequent appointments and to remove a chief executive for "stated misbehaviour".
Part 11 of the act provided for a process leading to a directly elected mayor for the Dublin Metropolitan Area. This required approval from the councils of the four local authorities in the area, namely the city of Dublin and the counties of South Dublin, Fingal, and Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown. Three supported it, but Fingal County Council voted 16–6 to reject it on 31 March 2014, terminating the process.
Further information: Municipal district (Ireland) § Areas
- Based on total members of North Tipperary and South Tipperary county councils.
- Based on total members of Limerick City and Limerick County councils.
- Based on total members of Waterford City and Waterford County councils.
The Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland (AMAI), which represented the town and borough councils abolished under the act, objected to the bill. It later published guidelines for the transition to the new structure. In March 2014, after the AMAI decided not to challenge the Act in court, another group called Former Local Authority Members Éire (FLAME) was founded by members of abolished councils.
The bill was introduced as the Local Government Bill 2013; the word "Reform" was inserted into its title at committee stage by the select subcommittee on the Environment, Community and Local Government.
On 28 April 2014, Mattie McGrath TD applied to the High Court for an injunction to stop the local elections on 23 May 2014, arguing the 2014 Act WAS null as it was passed without a vote, and that it violateED Article 28A of the Constitution and the European Charter of Local Self-Government.
In March 2015, then Labour Party ministers Brendan Howlin and Alan Kelly expressed dissatisfaction with the abolition of town councils. Howlin regretted having acquiesced to Fine Gael minister Phil Hogan, who championed the proposal. The Irish Independent reported in November 2015 that the Fianna Fáil manifesto for the 2016 election would promise to restore town councils.
In 2015, an advisory group and forum began reviewing local government; based on their work up to May 2016, Simon Coveney the then Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government said, "the revised structures are generally operating well but will need more time to bed down fully". The programme of the Fine Gael–led government formed after the 2016 election considered "establishing town and borough councils subject to a local plebiscite and local funding". In June 2017, Fianna Fáil introduced a private member's bill to establish a Town Councils Commission "to carry out a review and make recommendations relating to the establishment and boundaries of a town council system". It was opposed by the government on the grounds that it would pre-empt its own report, published in July 2017, on "potential measures to boost local government leadership and accountability".
- "Legislation Signed by President Higgins". Office of the President. Archived from the original on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
- "S.I. No. 215/2014 - Local Government Reform Act 2014 (2014 Establishment Day) Order 2014" (PDF). Irish Statute Book. 22 May 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
- "Reforming local government" (PDF). Programme for Government. merrionstreet.ie. 25 February 2011. p. 26. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
- "Putting People First — Action Programme for Effective Local Government". Local Government. Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
- "Terms of Reference". Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee 2012/2013. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
- Quinlivan, Aodh (24 May 2014). "The election that wasn't: how the plan for a directly elected Dublin mayor could be revived". The Irish Times. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
- "Local Government (Mayor and Regional Authority of Dublin) Bill 2010". Bills 1997–2013. Oireachtas. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
- "Bill to slash town councils and halve number of councillors". The Irish Times. 17 October 2013.
- Local Government Act 2014, §§144–146
- "Fingal cllrs vote against public poll for mayor". RTÉ.ie. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
- Cotter, Eimear; Joyce Fegan (31 March 2014). "Fingal Councillors scupper plans for directly-elected Dublin mayor". Irish Independent. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
- Local Government Act 2014, §§12
- Local Government Act 2014, §§15
- "'Town Councils should be reformed not abolished' - AMAI". Donegal Democrat. 17 October 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
- Reorganisation Advisory Group (31 July 2013). "Action Programme for Effective Local Government: Transition Framework for Sub-County/Municipal Reorganisation" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
- "Judicial review sought over local authority abolitions -". The Nationalist. Clonmel. 26 March 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
- Select Sub-Committee on the Environment, Community and Local Government (3 December 2013). "Local Government Bill 2013: Committee Stage". Committee debates. Oireachtas. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
- McConnell, Daniel (1 May 2014). "Mattie McGrath joins councillors in High Court bid to halt election". Irish Independent. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
- Kelly, Fiach (1 March 2015). "Town council abolition a mistake which should be reversed, says Brendan Howlin". The Irish Times. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
- O'Connor, Niall (18 November 2015). "Fianna Fáil manifesto will pledge to restore abolished town councils - Independent.ie". Irish Independent. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
- "Written Answer No. 110: Local Government Reform". Dáil Éireann debates. Oireachtas. 26 May 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
- "A Programme for a Partnership Government" (PDF). MerrionStreet.ie. May 2016. p. 154. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
We will also consider: [...] Establishing town and borough councils subject to a local plebiscite and local funding
- "Local Government (Establishment of Town Councils Commission) Bill 2017 [PMB]". Bills. Oireachtas. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
- "Local Government (Establishment of Town Councils Commission) Bill 2017: Second Stage [Private Members]". Dáil Éireann Debates. KildareStreet.com. 27 June 2017. pp. 53–64 : 55. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
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