Representatives from organisations and community groups across the city and county a seminar on a new framework for public engagement and participation, which is currently being established within each local authority area.
Speakers at the event, which was held in Hotel Kilkenny included Charles Stanley Smith of the National Environmental Pillar and Dr Sean Healy, Director of Social Justice Ireland.
Dr Healy outlined that one the reasons behind the formation of the new framework is to address the ‘democratic deficit’.
“There are decisions being made without taking into account the wishes of the people who have little or no say in shaping those decisions,” he said.
“The challenge is to develop effective processes for real engagement,” he added.
The Public Participation Network will be the main link through which the local authority connects with the community, social inclusion and environmental sectors.
Kilkenny County Council Community and Culture Section have been tasked with the responsibility of establishing the Public Participation Network for the county. Once established, PPN’s will form part of the new architecture in Local Government reform. All Local Authorities will seek nominations from the local PPN structure for community representation on their various committees including Strategic Policy Committees and the newly established Local Community Development Committee.
One of the main purposes of the PPN is to act as a collective information and
communication hub whereby the different pillars operating at community level can come together to gain access to information relevant for their groups; and to share, discuss and debate across the pillars to ensure the diverse range of needs, issues, assets and experiences are reflected and recognised at policy level within the county. The three pillars outlined in the PPN structure relate to the Community and Voluntary Pillar, the Environment Pillar and the Social Inclusion Pillar. These are interest-based pillars designed to give focus and common, collective purpose on relevant issues for the groups who operate within that particular sector.
The PPN structure also gives recognition to geographic groups and makes provision for all community based groups to come together at the four Municipal District levels in the county: Kilkenny East, Kilkenny West, Castlecomer and Piltown. These geographic groups will meet and network around common geographic concerns and projects specific to the Municipal District.
The main element or purpose of the PPN will be to act as a collective voice for the community while maintaining the diverse range of issues unique to each group.
The PPN will also facilitate the active participation of the community voice on local decision making bodies through the nominations of its members onto these committees and groups.
Kilkenny County Council, Director of Services, John McCormack outlined how he expected that the PPH structure would be completed by the end of the year.