Wexford Labour Party local election candidate Joe Ryan has called on the Minister with responsibility for Local Government, John Paul Phelan to reject appeals from Wexford County Council members to maintain present local authority boundaries.
Mr Ryan was responding to the decision ‘in committee’ of Wexford County Council to seek a meeting with the minister to ask him to bin his planned changes for Wexford.
Mr Ryan says he is surprised that three months short of a local election, council boundaries are not accepted by councillors.
The report proposed to change boundaries to ring fence representation for urban areas like Wexford town. The present boundaries have reduced urban representation in Wexford to a historic low.
Mr Ryan says there is a strong feeling that Wexford has been neglected in favour of rural areas in the last five years.
“Issues like Wexford Harbour, the failure of the ETB to provide night classes or the provision of a University of the South East simply don’t get the attention from our district council. There is a democratic deficit. Rural based councillors in Wexford district are taking decisions about Wexford town where they simply don’t operate on the ground.
“It means that many issues that are important in Wexford town do not get prioritised by the council simply because there’s low levels of public representation compared to when Wexford had its own Borough Council. The proposal to ring fence seats for Wexford is an attempt to change a status quo that side lines Wexford.
Mr Ryan said that the 2018 boundary report had regard to some of the submissions sitting councillors have already made.
“It is based on the premise that 10-seat wards like Wexford District are unworkable. The boundary report sets out the national need for 5-7 seat wards and 4-seat wards based on geography.
“It is fanciful thinking to expect that Wexford District must remain the only ward in the entire country with 10 seats simply to suit the re-election prospects of some councillors. I wonder if some of our county councillors have even read the boundary report’s terms of reference?”
Mr Ryan asked is it credible to believe that Minister Phelan will overturn his own report simply because some sitting councillors don’t like it?
“Five years ago the abolition of Wexford Borough Council didn’t suit many serving councilors, like myself, in Wexford town, however, the reality is that politics is a tough trade and local politics is the toughest of all.”
Mr Ryan concludes that county councillors are putting rural boundaries for local districts above the wider interest of Wexford town.
“Many local election candidates are already selected. They and the electorate are entitled to certainty. Seeking to change boundaries now is unfair and is all about putting the re-election of some councillors above the wider interest of Wexford.”