Greater consultation from the public on ‘red hot issues’ and a stronger obligation on the Government to comply with the opinion of local citizens was called for at Cork County Council yesterday.
The discussion was brought to the fore by Councillor Diarmaid O’Cadhla who said the people should have more weighted input on the decision-making process of local Government.
Making reference to controversial projects, such as the incinerator at Ringaskiddy, the plastics factory in Skibbereen, the upgrade of the N28 to a motorway and the quay walls scheme for city flood defences, Mr O’Cadhla said that it was a matter of frustration that consultation does not appear to have substance in that it doesn’t mean that the council has any obligation to comply with the opinion expressed by the public.
“There should be an option for places like Ringaskiddy to collect a required number of signatures and force a plebiscite (vote) which would decide matters rather than have communities continually forced to the high court, seeking judicial reviews and that.”
The Cobh Councillor said that local government should mean that the public has a say in red hot issues that come up from time to time and requested a meaningful system of public consultation that places an obligation on councils and planning authorities.
Independent Councillor Marcia D’Alton said that it was something that the council needed to put a great deal of thought into.
“We do have statutory public consultation mechanisms and I understand why they need to be in the format that they are in, but I think we need to engage people more. There are benefits like spending less money on judicial reviews.
Fianna Fáil Councillor Gearoid Murphy said it was an interesting issue.
“There used to be provision for initiatives such as this in the 1922 constitution. It wasn’t used with great success back then.”
The council agreed to write to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government is Eoghan Murphy to open up a discussion on the issue.