What are the major changes?
Following the report of the Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee Report 2013, it was recommended and accepted that Kildare would have five new electoral areas.
One would have six seats, another seven and three of them nine seats. President Higgins signed the Local Government Reform Act 2014 in January 2014. The Minister made the orders creating the new municipal districts on 31 January 2014. These replace 80 Town Councils including four in county Kildare.
Will there be more councillors than before in Kildare after the 2014 elections?
Yes, 40 councillors will be elected, compared to 25 on the current County Council.
At the same time, Athy, Leixlip, Naas and Newbridge Town Councils will be abolished.
Who decided what the new areas would be?
The Government had the final say, but it was advised by the Boundary Committee, which reported to it on 29 May 2013. The committee (see www.boundarycommittee.ie for submissions from Kildare) sought submissions from the public and received 508 many from groups and individuals. It decided there should be between 6 and 10 elected members in any local electoral area, such as the Celbridge/Leixlip one, for example. It also said there should be one elected member for 4,830 of the population, which includes those entitled to vote and those not entitled to vote. For a number of reasons it allowed an approximate variation from that ratio of plus or minus ten per cent.
How many people will be entitled to vote in the local election?
According to Kildare County Council spokesperson, Annette Aspell, who will also be the Returning Officer for the local elections, the total electorate on the 2014/15 Register of Electors who are eligible to vote at the forthcoming local elections is 139,074. This is slightly more than the 135,499 on the 2009/10 Register. This amounts to an annual growth of just over half of one per cent over the five years or 2.63% altogether.
Where are the new areas and how big are they?
The Kildare/Newbridge area, which has 9 seats, will have the highest number, 32,132, entitled to vote. It is followed by Naas (30,199) and Maynooth/Clane (28,054), both with 9 seats, Celbridge/Leixlip (26,954), which will have 7 seats and Athy (21,735) with 6 seats.
How many candidates will there be?
We won’t know until a few weeks before the election day. The period (a week) for nominating local election candidates occurs four weeks before polling day, 23 May, said the Department of Environment. But in 2009 in Kildare, there were 54 candidates going for 25 seats on the County Council.
What will the election cost the County Council?
Ms. Aspell said there are no detail available yet on the estimated cost of the forthcoming local elections as arrangements are currently being considered. However, the Council puts aside (€50,000 this year and did so last year) a certain sum each year to spread the costs over the years between elections. Ms. Aspell is the Returning Officer for the local elections in Kildare.
The County Registrar, Mrs Eithne Coughlan, is the European Local Returning Officer and, as such, is responsible for taking of the polls at polling stations on polling day, among other matters.
Can I get a job working for the State at the election?
This questions has been raised numerous times, usually by elected members after elections. Ms. Aspell said the employment of staff at polling stations is a matter for the European Local Returning Officer, who is based at Naas. There could be around 1,000 people working on around 277 polling stations, on 23 May. The employment of staff to conduct the local election count is a matter for the Returning Officer for the local elections.
Is everyone happy with the new political arrangements?
No, they are not? The Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland (AMAI), which represents a town authorities, had a difficulty. It referred to statements by President, Mr. Michael D Higgins, who, it said, challenged it to confront the need to represent the voice of local democracy. The AMAI said the proposals would deprive some sections of the community of reduced representation. Town Councils have also objected to their abolition.
What did President Higgins say?
In summary, he stated: “ ...the term ‘democracy’ derives from the 5th century Greek words for “rule of the people” or quite literally, people power”.
Basically, he said, “the active engagement of all of our citizens in decision making at local and national levels is a hallmark of inclusive citizenship and real self-governance.”
Is there a valid case for the forthcoming abolition of Town Councils?
Arguably there is. According to the Department of Environment, currently the 80 town councils in Ireland contain 46% of all councillors, but represent only 14% of the population and deal with only 7% of local government. They have too few powers and too little money.
Newly elected councillors will continue to perform those tasks.
Some towns may create voluntary unpaid Community Councils.