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Wednesday, 5th June 2024

Drogheda’s problems stem from local authority being woefully underfunded

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Work on Louth County Council's new offices in Fair Street is still ongoing but is due for completion within weeks. 

By Andy Spearman

So here we are just two days away from the local elections, and let’s not forget the European elections also, and what a boring lack-lustre campaign it has been. Apart from the falling from grace of Marian Agrios there has been precious little of any interest to report on.

Many of the candidates, especially the newcomers, have been making grand promises about what they’ll do if they are elected but, as sitting councillors know only too well, it is not within their power to effect much in the way of change.

The brutal facts of life for Councillors are that, even with the best will in the world and with the most imaginative ideas, the system of local Government that applies in this republic is so damaged that it leaves them with little or no powers. Getting anything done locally can take many, many years.

The overriding problem is that power is controlled from Dublin where the various government departments have established a political and civil service elite who keep a tight hold on the money which is badly needed to fund any level of progress in the regions.

These problems stem from the fact that in 2013 the then Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan abolished town councils such as Drogheda Borough Council and halved the number of Councillors. 

The upshot of this is that local authorities have been woefully underfunded which means that towns such as Drogheda are left struggling with problems such as town centre dereliction and vacancy, lack of development, chaotic traffic, a housing shortage, lack of industrial and commercial investment and much more.

The lack of imagination and ambition from some of our candidates is staggering also. Bringing a government minister down to see the state to which Drogheda has been allowed to sink is not going to cure the dereliction problem. They’ve known about it for years and done nothing, so anything they say in the run up to an election can be taken with a sizeable pinch of salt.

No one councillor is going to solve Drogheda’s problems, the best they can do is keep raising the issues again and again with the Council officials who will tell them that the money is not there to do anything about it and refer the matter up the line to the relevant government department. A year or so later they may raise the issue again and representations will be made once again to the same people in the same Government departments.

That’s why the first stage of the Northern Cross Route took 20 years to get built, all two kilometres of it. It’s anybody’s guess as to how long it will take to complete the road down to Drogheda Port. The new houses are certainly shooting up since the land became accessible to the developers.

It’s also why we have an appalling lack of infrastructure to attract tourism - projects such as the Drogheda to Navan Greenway, which was first mooted in the mid 1980’s, is as far from becoming a reality as ever.

It has taken a similar length of time for the Slane Bypass to get to the stage where a start date may be on the horizon and that is an absolute disgrace when you consider the lives that have been lost on the N2 which passes through the village.

There is a lot to be said for reversing Phil Hogan's "reform" of local government and getting power back into local hands and local decsions made by people who care about and live in the locality. Certainly, going cap in hand to Dundalk or  Navan has gotten us nowhere.  

The next time we citizens will have our say will be in the general election and it behoves us to ponder in such issues and to vote accordingly. The problems we face in 21st century Ireland are too big to leave to old civil war style politics.

There are different forces at play these days, they were wounded by the "Celtic Tiger" but they are back up and running once again.

Let this Friday's local elections be a forerunner of change on the national stage.

 

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