[Sinn Fein]

11 November 2002

Ministers u-turn will `neuter' local government reform

Sinn Fein spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government, Arthur Morgan, has described reports that the Minister for the Environment, Martin Cullen intends to give in to his backbenchers on local government reform as ``a massive u-turn'' and an ``incredibly retrograde step''.

Deputy Morgan was responding to weekend reports that claimed that not only was the Minister going to abandon the idea of direct mayoral elections but to also revisit the issue of ending the dual-mandate.

The County Louth TD said:

``If these reports are to be believed and there appears no reason to doubt them then it represents a massive u-turn by this Minister and his government. It is an incredibly retrograde step which will not only neuter local government reform but will send all the wrong signals to an already disillusioned electorate.

``It is clear that Fianna Fáil backbenchers are now formulating the governments policy on local government. The original Bill fell far short of what was required for real reform and it was still gutted in the last Dáil. Now we have new attempts to further undermine the process of reform.

``Any attempt now by the Minister to row back on the already limited commitments makes a mockery of government claims to be making local government more relevant, effective and responsible. The government must not go backwards on this issue. They must implement these limited reforms regardless of what pressure comes from their back-benches.''

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