Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan is facing more trouble in his own backyard, following the decision of local councillors from his own party to staunchly oppose his plans for the reform of local government.
In a rare display of cross-party unity, all present members of Kilkenny Borough Council (two absent) including three Fine Gael members – said they would resist the minister’s proposal to axe the city’s 800-year-old borough council. Councillors have expressed fears over the future ‘city status’ of Kilkenny, as well as concern that city funding would no longer be invested in city services – as the county council would then effectively be in control.
The current Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council, Marie Fitzpatrick, who has been Mayor of Kilkenny on three occasions, has also voiced her opposition to the borough council’s proposed abolition.
This revolt comes the same week it emerged that Minister Hogan had intervened in another local council issue in relation to Traveller accomodation. Yesterday (Tuesday), the Irish Independent revealed that Minister Hogan’s office had written to Kilkenny County Council asking it to defer an action to remove a family’s illegally parked caravan.
The correspondence asked that the removal be put off until the family could find somewhere else to live, and the council subsequently sought such a deferral. A spokesman for the council said that the minister’s representation had not influenced the decision, which was made due to the advanced pregnancy of one of the caravan’s occupants.
Earlier in the year, the minister was accused of prejudice against Travellers in an unrelated incident, in which he sent a letter to constituents to say that a named Traveller family would not be relocated to their area. This latest representation on behalf of a Traveller constituent would appear to be at odds with the accusations.
“I make representations on behalf of all sections of the community,” said Minister Hogan.