The report presents the findings and recommendations from the third monitoring visit in April-May 2023. Although Ireland is a solid democracy, and reforms of local government have taken place in the last decade, it remains one of the most centralised countries in Europe. Nevertheless, the Irish authorities proclaim that they are committed to strengthening local self-government and since the previous monitoring report in 2013, significant improvements have taken place, for example with transfers of the responsibility for local economic and community development to local government and the abolishing of the dual mandate. The system is now also more streamlined with just one tier of local government and with indirectly elected regional assemblies. Further reforms are on their way, such as the first directly elected mayor in Limerick.
However, there is still a lot to be done before local self-government in Ireland is on par with other European countries. In this respect, the rapporteurs expressed concern, among other things, over the limited share of public affairs under local authorities’ own responsibility and local authorities’ limited own resources, an imbalance between the elected members and the chief executives in local authorities, a lack of a formalised and regular consultation with central government as well as extensive and detailed administrative supervision. In addition, members of regional assemblies are indirectly elected and are not accountable to the citizens for the decisions they take in the assembly.
It is therefore recommended that Irish authorities transfer additional functions to local authorities, continue with reforms of the executive, elect members of the regional assemblies directly; introduce a system of formal and regular consultations between central and local government; enhance local democratic control over the internal administrative structure of local government; reduce administrative supervision; increase the amount of own resources that can be used at the discretion of local government and increase the share of non-earmarked grants.
The principle of local self government shall be recognised in domestic legislation, and where practicable in the constitution.
Following an amendment in 1999, the principle of local self-government is recognised in the Irish Constitution. Article 28A emphasises that local government provides a forum “for the democratic representation of local communities” and for “exercising and performing at the local level powers and functions conferred by law”. It also stipulates that councils are directly elected and that local elections will be held every five years.
Local self-government is also recognised in domestic legislation, with the Local Government Act 2001 being the major instrument that specifies how local self-government is applied. The act has been considerably revised over the years.
The rapporteurs acknowledge that local self-government is recognised in both the constitution and domestic legislation.
Nevertheless, the rapporteurs note that there is no mention of the types of local authorities that are protected in the constitution and, therefore, whole tiers of local government can be abolished through a decision in the Oireachtas, which occurred with the 2014 structural reform.
When ratifying the Charter in 2002, Ireland declared that it was confining the scope of the Charter to county councils, city councils and town councils. As town councils have been abolished, Ireland may want to adjust the units of application to those currently existing and possibly also to regional assemblies (this is further discussed in Chapter 4 of this report).
Local self-government denotes the right and the ability of local authorities, within the limits of the law, to regulate and manage a substantial share of public affairs under their own responsibility and in the interests of the local population.
Local government in Ireland is responsible for a number of local services and functions, such as housing, planning, roads, environmental protection, fire services, and maintaining the electoral register. An important extension of its area of responsibility was the introduction of a general competence in 1999. Further reforms were envisaged in the ambitious action programme that was adopted in October 2012. In the programme, it was stated that “(t)he role of local government in Ireland is narrow. Some traditional functions have moved to specialist organisations in recent years due to necessities of scale, resources and expertise. To make the most of its resources and capacities, the role of local government will be strengthened, having regard to relevant criteria, with a wider range of suitable functions. Its role will be refocused, particularly towards economic, social and community development. Central government involvement in operational details of local services will be further reduced and administrative controls and procedures streamlined. Local authority capacity to undertake services for a wider range of sectors will also be fully utilised”. After the monitoring visit in 2013, the Congress recommended that Ireland should implement the action programme rapidly in order to devolve more powers and responsibilities to local and regional authorities, and delegate relevant competences and financial resources to the local and regional levels.
The rapporteurs acknowledge that the implementation of the action programme has contributed to some changes, for example by giving local authorities a stronger role in local economic development and local community development. Additional functions have also been transferred to the local level, for example with regard to climate action, marine planning and administration of housing-related support. Nevertheless, functions have also been withdrawn during recent years, for example the responsibility for water and waste-water management, which was transferred to a national water utility (see paragraph 29 above). Local government has only partly received “a wider range of suitable functions”. Indeed, compared to most other European countries, Irish local government has still a very limited set of powers. Particularly noteworthy is the lack of local government responsibility for functions that in most other countries are carried out under local self-government. These include most welfare functions such as social assistance, elderly care, primary and secondary education, and health services, but also areas such as public transport and municipal policing. None of the additional functions transferred to local government after the last monitoring report would change the Irish position on the local autonomy index. The local government share of public expenditures remains only 8%, compared to 23% in the European Union as a whole.
The rapporteurs cannot see that local government manages “a substantial share of public affairs under their own responsibility”.
This right shall be exercised by councils or assemblies composed of members freely elected by secret ballot on the basis of direct, equal, universal suffrage, and which may possess executive organs responsible to them. This provision shall in no way affect recourse to assemblies of citizens, referendums or any other form of direct citizen participation where it is permitted by statute.
The paragraph emphasises that the right to self-government is exercised by democratically elected councils. In Ireland, local self-government is shared between the council and the chief executive. The council has a set of reserved functions, such as policy decisions, land-use plans, to enact bylaws and to adopt the annual budget. The chief executive is in charge of the executive functions, which include delivering on strategic objectives as set out in the corporate plan, administering schemes and allocating grants. Functional areas and services under the responsibility of the chief executive include transport, social housing and economic development, in which the chief executive is answerable mainly to the national government. Hence, local self-government is only partly in the hands of the elected council. Therefore, the conclusion in the previous report that local government is a combination of local self-government and state administration offices under “one roof” remains valid.
The article also states that executive organs may be responsible to the council. Although the chief executive is formally appointed by the council, this is done on the basis of a recommendation from the local appointments service and is not carried out independently by the local authority. The chief executive can only be dismissed by the council following a legally defined process. This requires both a qualified majority in the council and the approval of the minister. Hence, the links of responsibility between the council and the chief executive are very weak. The impression of the rapporteurs during meetings with various interlocutors is that the practical relationships between council and chief executive vary – from close co-operation and understanding to almost living in separate worlds. The difference in length of office between the mayor/chairman and the chief executive is to the disadvantage of the former (normally one year for the mayor/chairman, compared to 7+3 years for the chief executive). Representatives of the AILG suggested that the position of the chief executive has become even stronger during the last ten years.
Ireland is about to propose introducing the office of a directly elected mayor in its system of local government. The forerunner is Limerick City and County Council, where this function was approved by a citizen majority in a plebiscite. The required legislation is expected to be in place during 2023, but a draft bill was not available at the time of the monitoring visit. It is understood that most of the powers of the chief executive will be transferred to the mayor. Another important task for the mayor will be to produce a five-year plan to be amended and approved by the council. A mayoral function for Greater Dublin may be put to a plebiscite in 2024, after having been supported by a citizens’ assembly. Its proposal is currently being reviewed by the government and passed on to the Oireachtas for further consideration. During the monitoring visit, the minister of state with responsibility for local government and planning informed the delegation that he hopes that more local authorities will hold plebiscites so that this can be a major part of the reform of local self-government in Ireland. He also underlined that it is very important for the success of the reform that the mayoral function turns out to work as expected and that it is accepted by the general public and the councillors. However, there is no way of knowing, at this point, if the electorates in the various local authorities will, in fact, opt for a directly elected mayor.
The position of the elected mayor was not anticipated when the Charter was established in 1985, but the Congress has subsequently stated that Article 3.2 leaves the door open to the direct election of the executive. Hence, the introduction of such a function would not violate the Charter. Depending on the precise nature of the proposed role, and its interface with elected councillors, it may be seen as an important step forward in improving the control of locally elected politicians over executive functions and thereby broaden the scope of democratic local self-government in Ireland.
There is a strong system of democratic local government, but the area of self-government is limited to the reserved functions. Transfers of executive functions to an elected mayor may be a positive development and the rapporteurs hope that many more local authorities will choose to go in that direction. However, at the same time, the delegation would welcome additional and immediate reforms that strengthen local democratic control of executive functions in all councils. Otherwise, there is a clear risk that an asymmetric system of local government will develop, with different amounts of local democratic control over local matters in different councils. Recent work in this area has included the development of best practices for the operation of municipal districts, in co-operation with local authorities, elected members and other stakeholders.
Although the Charter does not specify any ideal population size of local authorities, the rapporteurs notice that the Irish local authorities, on average, are among the largest in Europe. This may have considerable implications for the role of local government vis-à-vis citizens. However, the evidence suggests that Irish local identity is largely connected to the county level, and that the election system ensures strong links between citizens and the local authority. Also, the rapporteurs acknowledge the establishment of municipal (borough/metropolitan) districts as an important democratic innovation, which brings decisions on some local matters closer to the citizens.
The 2014 territorial reform included a restructuring of the regional level of government, with the establishment of three regional assemblies. This partly corresponds to the recommendations by the Congress in the 2013 monitoring report to further develop the regional tier of government and make it responsible for the delivery of “regional” public services. The rapporteurs also suggested direct elections of the regional decision makers. Ireland has chosen a model by which the assemblies consist of councillors from the local authorities in the area. However, these councillors have a popular mandate only as councillors and not as regional decision makers, and therefore, cannot be made accountable by the citizens in the region for their decisions in the assembly. Although regional assemblies are not included in the area of applicability of the Charter in Ireland, the rapporteurs would suggest that these are reformed so that their members are elected directly by the citizens. This would also make regional government in Ireland more similar to the regional level in other European countries.
The basic powers and responsibilities of local authorities shall be prescribed by the constitution or by statute. However, this provision shall not prevent the attribution to local authorities of powers and responsibilities for specific purposes in accordance with the law.
According to this article, all basic powers and responsibilities need to be firmly anchored in legal texts, with no room for assignment of powers to local government on an ad hoc basis. The powers and responsibilities should be prescribed by the constitution or by statute in order to safeguard predictability, permanence and protection of self-government. Legislation may have a general form, with relevance for local government as a whole, but can also concern regulation of specific local services.
In Ireland, the competences of local authorities are clearly given by legislation. Particularly important is the 2001 Local Government Act, but other significant general legislation includes the 2014 Local Government Reform Act and the Local Government Rates and Other Matters Act 2019. In addition, there is considerable special legislation for different areas of service provision. According to evidence from the interlocutors, allocation of powers is done on a strictly legal basis with no scope for ad hoc measures.
Local authorities shall, within the limits of the law, have full discretion to exercise their initiative with regard to any matter which is not excluded from their competence nor assigned to any other authority.
This paragraph stipulates a right for local government to carry out any function that is not explicitly excluded from their area of responsibility as long as it is not the specific task of any other authority. In addition, it is stated that local government should be able to carry out such functions with “full discretion”.
For many years, Irish local government was subject to the principle of ultra vires, limiting the functions of local government to only those assigned by law. Closely connected with Ireland’s signing of the Charter, the country introduced a general competence for local authorities. Section 66.3 of the Local Government Act 2001 states that a “local authority may take such measures, engage in such activities or do such things in accordance with law (including the incurring of expenditure) as it considers necessary or desirable to promote the interests of the local community”. The local property tax provides some resources for specific local priorities, such as public parks, leisure amenities, and maintenance and cleaning of streets.
The rapporteurs acknowledge that local government has a power of general competence which makes it possible for the council to carry out functions that they would otherwise not have been able to do, within the law. However, the relevance of this function is clearly constrained by the financial resources available. Although the local property tax generates resources that are not regulated by national government, these are fairly limited.
Public responsibilities shall generally be exercised, in preference, by those authorities which are closest to the citizen. Allocation of responsibility to another authority should weigh up the extent and nature of the task and requirements of efficiency and economy.
This paragraph introduces subsidiarity as the guiding principle for the division of functions between levels of government. In the general European context, this means that public responsibilities should be exercised by authorities as close to the citizens as possible. However, when there are good reasons with regard to the extent and nature of the tasks, other levels may be more relevant. Nevertheless, decentralisation is the first choice to be considered. In the monitoring report from 2013, the Congress recommended that Ireland revised its legislation to ensure that the subsidiarity principle is better enshrined and protected in the law and to promote this basic principle in practice in the Irish public administration system.
The rapporteurs have already noted that Ireland is a centralised state, with national government being responsible for functions that in many other countries are concerns for local government and with a comparatively small share of public expenditures in the hands of local authorities. Despite the reforms that have taken place since the previous monitoring report, and the continuing programme of work to enhance the operation of municipal districts, the system remains very centralised.
Powers given to local authorities shall normally be full and exclusive. They may not be undermined or limited by another, central or regional, authority except as provided for by the law.
This paragraph is concerned with the powers that local government carries out on behalf of central government at the local level. In all European countries, local authorities have functions that are delegated to them by law. The Charter requests that these functions should be “full and exclusive” and if they are shared with some other level of government, the line of demarcation should be clear with no room for ambiguities. The contemporary commentary to the Charter emphasises that there may be limitations to the power assigned to local authorities, but these should be exceptional, based on objective criteria and interpreted narrowly.
The functions of Irish local government generally seem to be clearly defined and delimitated with a minimum of overlaps with other authorities. However, they are seldom “full”, as tasks given to local government often remain tightly regulated. In the evidence given by the AILG, the organisation suggests that all powers that derive from primary legislation can be withdrawn or amended at the initiative of the government and the approval of the Oireachtas. It is also stated that ministerial guidelines are increasingly being used to regulate details. An example concerns the draft Planning and Development Bill 2022, which would upgrade ministerial guidelines to “national policy planning statements” and “national planning policy guidance”, which will be mandatory. Other interlocutors have also expressed a concern with the high level of details of national regulation of the tasks that local government carries out on behalf of national government.
Ireland meets the requirement in the Charter that powers given to local authorities are exclusive, but to a lesser extent that they are “full”.
Where powers are delegated to them by a central or regional authority, local authorities shall, insofar as possible, be allowed discretion in adapting their exercise to local conditions.
A crucial argument for local self-government is that local democratically elected decision makers are better positioned to adapt general policies to local circumstances as they are closer to citizens and have access to local knowledge. This paragraph emphasises that also powers delegated from central or regional levels of government to local government should include such scope for local adjustments. Discretion in local application of national policies contributes to the legitimacy of national policies and is therefore beneficial also for central government.
Although, as was explained in connection with the assessment of Article 4.4, regulation of local government is particularly tight in areas of delegated powers, there is still scope for local adjustments. An example is spatial planning regulation which allows local authorities to take into account local circumstances when drawing up plans.
The rapporteurs acknowledge that despite tight regulation there is some scope for discretion when adapting delegated powers to local conditions.
Local authorities shall be consulted, insofar as possible, in due time and in an appropriate way in the planning and decision-making processes for all matters which concern them directly.
The Charter demands that the views of local government should be taken into account when national authorities develop new policies. Article 4.6 explicitly states that this should be done with all matters that concern local government directly, and that consultation should take place in due time. This would mean that local authorities need to be consulted at a stage when new policy or regulation is being drafted with a real opportunity to be able to provide input into the process. For practical reasons, consultations may be carried out with the local government associations, which in turn will need to have sufficient time to discuss matters with their members. Consultations should be regular and not only occur on an ad hoc basis.
In the Congress report on local democracy in Ireland from 2013, it was recommended that national authorities develop the procedures and mechanisms of consultation with local and regional authorities on matters concerning them directly both in legislation and in practice, taking into account the criteria provided by Article 4, paragraph 6, of the Charter, namely, “in due time” and “in an appropriate way”.
During the monitoring visit of the delegation, it became clear that there is still no formalised and regular process for consultations with local government during the national policy-making process. Although councillors and officials are often invited to pre-legislative scrutiny sessions by the joint Oireachtas committees, and the minister may ask local government associations for advice, this is carried out on an ad hoc basis. Nevertheless, in the written statement from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, the delegation was told that the new mayor of Limerick is suggested to have the right in law to be formally consulted on dimensions of national policy that affect the well-being of Limerick. This may be the start of the development of a more extensive system of formal consultations between national and local government in Ireland as a whole. During the consultation procedure, the department also pointed out that section 225 (3) of the Local Government Act of 2001 (as amended) provides that an association of local authorities “may carry out such activities as are necessary to represent the collective interests of the local authorities which constitute its members” including (c) the “provision of policy support and other assistance […] as regards any matter relating to or that may relate to local government”, (d) “the assessment of public policy as regards any matter relating to or that may relate to local government”, and (3) “the provision of advice and the making of submissions to the Minister or other public authorities as regards such matters”. Section 255 (3A) provides for the holding of meetings between such associations and the minister. The department added that the CCMA’s system of seven thematic committees provides a forum for central government to engage with local government in the development of policy.
Although there are signs of a promising development, national government’s consultation with local government remains irregular and does not deal with all matters that concern local government directly.
Consultation schedules between local government and central government should be put in place without delay.
Changes in local authority boundaries shall not be made without prior consultation of the local communities concerned, possibly by means of a referendum where this is permitted by statute.
The article deals with the territory of the local authorities. It accepts that the borders of local government are basically a matter for higher levels of government to decide, in most cases the national level. Hence, local authorities have neither any right to make such changes themselves, nor are in any position to veto such proposals. This applies to minor adjustments as well as extensive and comprehensive territorial reforms, such as amalgamations of local authorities. Nevertheless, when boundary changes are considered, the affected local communities should be consulted. At the least, this should include the local authorities that are most concerned, but it may also take the form of a local referendum.
Local government boundary alternations are regulated in part 8 of the Local Government Act 2001. If the request comes from a council, other affected local authorities are invited to give their views. However, if requested by the minister, there is no provision in the Local Government Act that affected local authorities must be consulted.
The most recent territorial reform of local government in Ireland was carried out in 2014, codified in the Local Government Reform Act 2014. Through the reform, all boroughs and town councils were abolishedand municipal districts were introduced. In addition, the city and county councils of Waterford and Limerick were merged and so were the two county councils in Tipperary. Minor changes have also taken place, such as the alternation of boundaries in Cork County Council and Cork City Council. No further major territorial reforms are currently considered although an expert advisory group recommended amalgamation of Galway City and County Councils.
As noted in connection with Article 4.6, Ireland has no general mechanism for consultation with local government or their associations. Neither is there any such mechanism in the special case of boundary changes. There were no consultations prior to the 2014 territorial reform. Nevertheless, citizens and the local authorities were consulted in connection with the boundary alteration in Cork and the boundary reviews undertaken for the towns of Athlone, Waterford, Carlow and Drogheda.
Without prejudice to more general statutory provisions, local authorities shall be able to determine their own internal administrative structures in order to adapt them to local needs and ensure effective management.
The paragraph deals with the right for local government to independently, although within the limits of the law, decide how its administrative structure should be organised. The requirement adds an element to local autonomy through which local authorities can adjust their organisation to local circumstances in order to be able to provide their services in an effective way.
The internal administrative structure of Irish local authorities is only to a limited extent decided by the elected councillors. All local authorities are required to have a strategic policy committee, but the council can set up any other committee that is regarded to be relevant. However, the council has no influence over the administrative structure of the local authority, as this is entirely an executive function. According to the draft legislation on a directly elected mayor in Limerick, significant administrative functions will be transferred to the mayor, which will increase the influence of an elected official over the internal administrative structure of the local authority.
During the consultation procedure, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage highlighted that section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001 provides that each chief executive is responsible for the staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authority for which they are responsible. The department added that accordingly, the responsibility for allocating staff to specific work areas within local authorities and other related organisational arrangements including recruitment are matters that rest solely with the chief executive. Furthermore, the department stated that it oversees workforce planning for the local government sector in order to ensure that prudent workforce planning remains in place as is required for all sectors across the public service. And the department pointed out that where local authorities require additional posts above the levels set in workforce plans, the department’s engagement is only in the overall context of ensuring that prudent workforce planning is in place. However, the opinion of the rapporteurs is that decisions about the employment structure in local authorities are controlled by central government. As indicated in the written evidence provided to the delegation by the CCMA, sanction for additional posts is usually granted following the submission of a business case and if funding is identified. Nevertheless, this procedure reflects a highly centralised system of local government staffing.
Although the mayoral reform represents a step towards meeting the requirement in Article 6.1.
The conditions of service of local government employees shall be such as to permit the recruitment of high-quality staff on the basis of merit and competence; to this end adequate training opportunities, remuneration and career prospects shall be provided.
To be able to carry out its functions, local authorities depend on well-trained and high-quality staff. This paragraph emphasises that the conditions of service of local government employees should be sufficiently favourable, so that such staff can be recruited and retained. The contemporary commentary report underlines that local government should have the freedom to determine the conditions of service of their own employees, although the specific national context of public-sector employment has to be taken into account.
In Ireland, conditions for local government employees are largely determined by national level agreements between the trade unions and the local government management body at national level. According to local government associations, local authorities report great difficulties in recruiting and retaining technical staff. In their written comments to the monitoring delegation, Dublin City Council underlines that the cost of living and a more competitive recruitment environment make recruitment and retention of staff more difficult for the city council, relative to other local authorities. However, in the context of an economy with full employment (2023), the recruitment and retention of all categories of staff in all parts of the country remains challenging.
The conditions of office of local elected representatives shall provide for free exercise of their functions.
Article 7 regulates conditions for the elected members of the local councils. In the first paragraph, it is stated that these should be able to exercise their functions freely, that is without restrictions.
The overall picture of the conditions for local elected representatives in Ireland is that they are generally free to carry out their functions. A recent improvement is that elected councillors, from 2022, are granted a right to maternity leave equivalent to the entitlement for employees in the general society. An additional innovation is the co-option of a temporary member as a substitute for a councillor who is absent due to maternity leave or temporary sickness. It is hoped that these reforms will make it easier for women to participate in local politics, although the rapporteurs note that gender equality would benefit if there was also an equivalent right for male councillors to paternity leave.
A remaining obstacle, observed by the Congress in the 2013 monitoring report, is that councillors in general have no legal right to leave from work for council meetings, which has turned out to restrict private-sector employees from running for office. Therefore, it was recommended that the Irish Government consider establishing a clear and specific legislative basis regarding the conditions of office of local elected representatives, particularly as related to rules for private employers to provide “free time” to elected officials for participation in local matters.
Beyond the formal conditions, it is also clear that the workload of each councillor has increased with the reduction in number of local authorities. Each councillor now represents on average 5 400 citizens and with the tradition of clientelism, they are expected to pursue not only the interests of the local community, but also requests from individual citizens. An additional disadvantage is that the usual one-year term of the mayor puts the political leader of the council in a disadvantageous position vis-à-vis the chief executive. Finally, the members of regional assemblies have an additional role without having a popular mandate for this task, hence cannot be made accountable to the citizens for the decisions they take in the regional assembly.
Although the situation for elected representatives has improved in many respects, the lack of a legal right for leave to attend council meetings must be understood as a restraint on the free exercise of the elected members’ mandate.
They shall allow for appropriate financial compensation for expenses incurred in the exercise of the office in question as well as, where appropriate, compensation for loss of earnings or remuneration for work done and corresponding social welfare protection.
This paragraph states that elected members of local councils have a right to financial compensation for their tasks. The financial compensation should be “appropriate”, thereby not preventing, limiting, or excluding citizens to run for office for financial reasons.
Remuneration of local councillors has improved considerably since the last monitoring report. Based on suggestions from the Independent Review of the Role and Remuneration of Local Authority Elected Members by Sara Moorhead, recognition was given that “people who put themselves forward to run for public office do so knowing that serving as a local authority elected member involves a significant commitment of time and effort. It is recognised that this commitment grew significantly as a consequence of the 2014 local government reforms.” The review also found, however, that the role of councillor was not a full-time one. The following major changes were made to councillor’s remuneration and allowances in 2021:
An increase of more than 40% in councillors’ salary and linked to a local authority pay scale, which increases in line with national pay agreements. The current salary is €28 145 (gross) per annum as of 1 March 2023, among the highest rates of pay for local councillors in Europe.
During the consultation procedure, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage informed the rapporteurs that in addition, councillors receive a non-taxable travel and subsistence allowance which is worth approximately €3 850 per annum, but varies based on personal circumstances. Councillors also receive travel and subsistence allowances at the standard civil service rates, set by the minister for public expenditure and reform, for attending training events, conferences and other events that are relevant to their functions. Additional allowances are paid to chairpersons of local authorities (Cathaoirleach/mayors), municipal districts and local authority committees. Maternity leave has been introduced for members of local authorities through the Local Government (Maternity Protection and Other Measures for Members of Local Authorities) Act 2022. Councillors can also receive a non-contributory lump sum gratuity payment after leaving local government service and having reached the minimum retirement age of 50 years, which is worth a maximum of €76 664 after 20 years of service. The vouched local representation allowance is €5 160 maximum per annum.
Despite these improvements, several interlocutors have underlined that the financial compensation is still not sufficient to compensate for the workload that councillors have. Also, there is no additional salary for membership of a regional assembly. It was also stressed that it has become increasingly difficult to get people to run for elected office. Of the 949 councillors elected in the 2019 local elections, by April 2023, at least 101 had left their positions mostly on election to the national parliament, and of these, 32 stood down for personal/career/political reasons (for example, time pressure, work reasons, health or stress issues, policy or party organisational issues). Among these, younger, first-time, co-optees and female councillors are overrepresented.
Although the financial conditions for councillors have improved somewhat, much remains to be done to meet the requirements of Article 7.2 of the Charter. The rapporteurs highlight that important steps have been, and continue to be, taken.
Any functions and activities which are deemed incompatible with the holding of local elective office shall be determined by statute or fundamental legal principles.
Due to conflicts of interests, some citizens should not be permitted to hold a local elected office. However, such restrictions must be clearly defined by statute or other legal instruments. This is emphasised in the third paragraph dealing with the conditions of elected representatives.
Before 2003, members of the Irish Parliament could simultaneously hold office as an elected member of a council. This practice of dual mandate was abolished to reduce tendencies of clientelism, as those with such a position tended to protect the interests of their local voters at all levels of government. All disqualifications of being a member of a county council are specified in Article 13 of the Local Government Act and also include, for example, members of the European Parliament and the national government.
The disqualifications of being a member of a local council are clearly stated in the Local Government Act.
Any administrative supervision of local authorities may only be exercised according to such procedures and in such cases as are provided for by the constitution or by statute.
Article 8 of the Charter outlines how administrative supervision of local government should be carried out. In the contemporary commentary, supervision refers to a “form of intervention in the decision-making process of a local entity by which a higher administrative level explicitly or tacitly approves, clears, agrees, suspends or annuls a proposal or a final decision, rule or plan approved by a local entity”. Administrative supervision can be “a priori” or “ex post”. Paragraph 1 underlines that such supervision must comply with the principle of legality, that is that all administrative supervision must be made according to law without any room for higher authorities to interfere on an ad hoc basis.
The way supervision is carried out is essential for the functioning of local self-government, as supervision is the very opposite of autonomy. Therefore, a first requirement is that all supervision is based on law. In Ireland, supervision of local authorities is carried out by various government departments, but also by the Ombudsman, who responds to claims by citizens, and the NOAC, which investigates the performance of local authorities and oversees how national policy is implemented by local government bodies. Based on the evidence provided to the delegation and on discussions with interlocutors, the rapporteurs have found no incidence of supervision that is not grounded in law.
Any administrative supervision of the activities of the local authorities shall normally aim only at ensuring compliance with the law and with constitutional principles. Administrative supervision may however be exercised with regard to expediency by higher-level authorities in respect of tasks the execution of which is delegated to local authorities.
This article establishes the principle that administrative supervision should generally be limited to a scrutiny of compliance with law. However, supervision in relation to delegated tasks may also concern expediency, in which case the supervisory body may replace a decision by a local authority with a different decision.
Irish local government is mainly in charge of tasks that have been delegated from national government and are regulated by national law. Therefore, this paragraph makes it justifiable to supervise these tasks with regard to both compliance with law and expediency. Only decisions falling within the general competence can be regarded to be “own” tasks and should therefore only concern whether these have been carried out according to law.
As functions that are carried out within the general competence are only supervised with regard to their lawfulness.
Administrative supervision of local authorities shall be exercised in such a way as to ensure that the intervention of the controlling authority is kept in proportion to the importance of the interests which it is intended to protect.
Paragraph 3 establishes the principle of proportionality in the supervision of local government, meaning that administrative supervision should be proportional to the interest it intends to protect. Also, more softer means, such as warnings, requests or negotiations, should be preferred over more intrusive interventions, such as annulling or suspending a decision at local level.
In the report after the previous monitoring visit in 2013, it was stated that administrative supervision of local government in Ireland is detailed, and that national government remains highly interventionist in local decision making. The Congress recommended Ireland to amend existing legislation which allows the central government to intervene in local decision making and ensure that the action programme that was about to be implemented did not increase the level of supervision even more. In particular, the establishment of the NOAC to monitor the efficiency of local authorities should not increase administrative supervision of local government.
Central government control over local government is carried out in general terms by the relevant government departments, but there are also provisions for direct ministerial control of local government, for example in the planning legislation. The auditing of local government is conducted by the local government audit service. In addition, the NOAC has an independent role in providing evaluations and oversights over the local government sector. Many of the interlocutors representing local government have emphasised that the level of detail in administrative supervision remains high.
A leading Irish local government scholar has characterised the administrative supervision of local government in Ireland as overly pervasive, and with power concentrated in central government. In the scholarly contribution to the local autonomy index, it was noted that “(d)ay-to-day supervision by the Department, the Minister and officials is widespread and far-reaching. Manifestations of administrative controls and supervision beyond the normal Acts of Parliament include practice, codes of conduct, circulars, etc. Requirements include monitoring and evaluation of activities and service level agreements (SLAs) to regular returns of financial and non-financial information, that include annual budgets, financial statements, performance indicators, financial audits, value for money reports, etc.”
The most serious form of central government control is the replacement of a council with a commissioner. According to part 21 of the Local Government Act 2001, the minister for housing, local government and heritage can appoint a commissioner to take over council functions if a local authority fails to perform any of its functions in a duly and effectual way, if it does not adopt a budget, if it acts illegally or if it refuses or wilfully neglects to comply with any other express requirement which is imposed on it by or under any enactment or act. Although this ultimate instrument is available to central government, it has not been used since 1985. However, in the early years of the state, it was used frequently.
The rapporteurs have seen no signs of reduced administrative supervision of local government in Ireland since the last monitoring visit. On the contrary, the establishment of the NOAC has added to the previously fairly tight supervision of local authorities, and no examples of relaxed supervision have been detected. Although supervision is justified with regard to delegated tasks, it is clearly not proportional in the sense suggested by the Charter.
Local authorities' financial resources shall be commensurate with the responsibilities provided for by the constitution and the law.
Paragraph 2 is about the principle of commensurability of local authorities’ financial resources. Resources available to local authorities should be sufficient and commensurate with their responsibilities. Although it may be difficult to determine the exact level of resources that is required, there should be a balance between local governments’ total revenues and their mandatory functions. New tasks should be accompanied by the corresponding funding.
During the monitoring visit in 2013, the rapporteurs noted that the financial situation for local government remained restrained, in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008. The evidence presented to the delegation suggests that the situation is clearly better today. However, there are different views among interlocutors on whether funding from national government is commensurate with the mandatory functions that local government is carrying out. Perhaps not unexpectedly, those representing the government side claimed that funding was sufficient, whereas representatives from local government and their associations were more critical.
It is difficult to identify some objective criteria as a basis for an assessment of the compliance with Article 9.2, and the comments made by the interlocutors vary in this respect.
For the purpose of borrowing for capital investment, local authorities shall have access to the national capital market within the limits of the law.
The final paragraph dealing with financial self-government concerns the right for local government to have access to the national capital market for capital investments, within the limits of the law.
Local authorities in Ireland have access to the national capital market for borrowing to capital projects, although most of them borrow from a government fund as this provides better rates. However, all borrowing by local government requires the approval of the minister in charge of local government affairs. During the consultation procedure, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage informed the rapporteurs that this is because local authorities are required to have a neutral impact on the general government balance, which is the fiscal measure the European Union Commission uses to assess a country’s compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact and the Maastricht criteria. Therefore, access to borrowing is limited.
Irish local government has access to the national capital market within the limits of the law, as stated by this paragraph in the Charter. However, in practice, this provides very limited independent scope for self-government as local authorities lack the right to decide on borrowing.
As far as possible, grants to local authorities shall not be earmarked for the financing of specific projects. The provision of grants shall not remove the basic freedom of local authorities to exercise policy discretion within their own jurisdiction.
This paragraph is concerned with grants to local authorities from higher levels of government. If possible, grants should be unconditional, rather than earmarked for specific projects or purposes. Even when services are financed with grants, there should still be a basic freedom for local authorities to exercise policy discretion within their own jurisdiction.
Central government transfers to local government account for 40% of local government revenue income. It has been estimated that only 10% of these grants are unconditional. Central government grants fund approximately two thirds of local government capital investments. Capital projects co-funded by national government need the approval of the capital projects grants board which also monitors that these comply with the agreed budgets. During the consultation procedure, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage pointed out that local authorities often choose the projects to propose for grant funding.
The scope for local self-government provided by the grants to local government is very limited.
Local authorities shall be consulted, in an appropriate manner, on the way in which redistributed resources are to be allocated to them.
Paragraph 6 requests that local government should be consulted about aspects of the redistribution system. Hence, in addition to the general principle of consultation in Article 4.6, the Charter also specifically underlines the right to be consulted about the way in which redistributed resources are to be allocated to them by other levels of government.
In the 2013 monitoring report, it was noted that there is a system of financial equalisation through the local government fund, but it is not sufficiently transparent, as equalisation is done on the basis of an administrative assessment of needs and resources. Therefore, the Congress recommended the government to review the equalisation mechanism to make it transparent and ensure that this is done in consultation with the local authorities.
A local government funding (baseline) review group, consisting of representatives of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and the Department of Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform, together with representatives from councillors’ and chief executives’ associations, has been established to review the baseline computation. It has been given the task to recommend a set of indicators that are fair, equitable and transparent. In the process, all local authorities are invited to give their views on how the indicators should be weighted and recommend new indicators where appropriate. A report from the review group is expected by May 2023, to be presented to the minister.
The rapporteurs welcome the initiative to review the system of equalisation and that this is carried out in a way that gives both individual local authorities and the local government associations an influence over the process.
The protection of financially weaker local authorities calls for the institution of financial equalisation procedures or equivalent measures which are designed to correct the effects of the unequal distribution of potential sources of finance and of the financial burden they must support. Such procedures or measures shall not diminish the discretion local authorities may exercise within their own sphere of responsibility.
Paragraph 5 states that systems of local self-government should include some kind of equalisation mechanism, through which the effects of the unequal distribution of potential sources of finance and of the financial burden they must support are counterbalanced. Equalisation can be achieved either through transfers from central government or redistribution among local authorities. However, the mechanism must not reduce the discretion that local authorities have in carrying out their responsibilities.
Ireland has a system of financial equalisation of local government. In the present system, local authorities with incomes under a baseline receive additional funding, to compensate for disadvantages in terms of geographical location, population density, service needs and the ability to raise income locally. Baseline funding comes from the LPT and is supplemented by funding from national government where a local authority’s LPT income is less than its baseline level. The additional resources can be used at the discretion of the local government.
Part at least of the financial resources of local authorities shall derive from local taxes and charges of which, within the limits of statute, they have the power to determine the rate.
The Charter considers tax-levying powers to be a crucial part of local self-government. According to Article 9.3, local authorities should be allowed to raise at least a part of the revenue locally, through local taxes and charges, and in addition, they should have the power to, within the limits of statute, determine the rate of these.
In the 2013 monitoring report, the rapporteurs concluded that the scale of local taxes and power of local authorities to determine the rates are very limited, and therefore the Congress recommended that, in practice, local governments would have the power to levy taxes and determine effectively the rates within the limits of law. After the report was published, the local property tax has been introduced, which provides a certain leeway to set the rate locally.
Approximately 60% of all local authority income in Ireland is currently generated at the local level, from commercial rates, income from goods and services, and from the local property tax. Local government has some scope to determine the rates on commercial property. During the consultation procedure, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage pointed out that the level of commercial rates to be levied is set according to the annual rate on valuation (ARV), which is determined by local authorities after all expenditure and income is estimated and the net expenditure figure which needs to be funded is finalised.
Income from goods and services does not usually generate any surplus as these should correspond to the costs of these services. However, the rate of the local property tax can be adjusted locally, with +/- 15% in relation to the base rate set by the national government. Currently, 22 county councils have an LPT rate above the national base line (of which 12 have the top deviation of +15%, five have the same as the national standard and four are below).
Ireland clearly meets the requirement in paragraph 3 that at least part of the revenue should be raised locally. The rapporteurs also note that the LPT provides a certain scope for variation, thereby making it possible for local government to independently decide the level of its revenue. From the written documentation provided by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, it is clear that this expression of self-government was introduced partly as a response to the proposal made by the Congress on the basis of the 2013 monitoring report.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that a scope for variation of 30 percentage points of a tax that only generates 7% of total local government revenue is a restricted form of financial self-government. During the consultation procedure, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage disagreed with this statement, claiming that there is full leeway in setting commercial rates, which comprises a significant portion of local government funding and that councillors can seek to reduce expenditure if they wish to reduce commercial rates or can increase rates if they wish to have additional discretionary funding.
The opinion of the rapporteurs is that even if there may also be some leeway in setting the commercial rates, the total amount of financial autonomy is very limited.
Local authorities shall be entitled, within national economic policy, to adequate financial resources of their own, of which they may dispose freely within the framework of their powers.
Article 9 consists of a number of paragraphs about the resources available to local authorities and their right to dispose of them freely. The first paragraph is about the “own” resources of local government, typically referring to resources generated locally such as local taxes, charges, fees, etc. These should, within national economic policy, be “adequate”, and local government should have the right to dispose of these freely, although within the framework of their powers.
In Ireland, approximately 60% of all local authority revenues are generated locally, from commercial rates, income from goods and services, and from the local property tax (LPT). However, most of these are linked to predetermined services and it is only the LPT that can be used according to local priorities. Until 2022, 80% of the LPT was retained at the local level and the remaining was used for equalisation purposes. From 2023, all resources generated through the LPT are kept locally. The local property tax, which represents 7% of local government revenue, provides resources for specific local priorities, such as public parks, leisure amenities, and maintenance and cleaning of streets.
Although there is no specific definition of “adequate resources of their own”, compared to most other European countries, 7% is clearly very low.
The financial systems on which resources available to local authorities are based shall be of a sufficiently diversified and buoyant nature to enable them to keep pace as far as practically possible with the real evolution of the cost of carrying out their tasks.
Article 9.4 is about the need for local government to have different types or sources of income which are sufficiently buoyant to meet fluctuations in the economy. The ability to keep up as far as practically possible with the actual increases in the costs for carrying out their tasks is an important requirement for local self-government. Ideally, the types of revenue should automatically compensate local government for inflation or economic difficulties that are beyond their control.
Irish local government has four major sources of revenue – commercial rates, grants and subsidies, goods and services income, and the local property tax. Some of these sources are provided by national government, others are generated from the local tax base. This mix of resources clearly meets the requirement of the Charter that sources of income should be diversified. With regard to the buoyancy, the incomes from rates would follow changes in property values, although this may occur with some delay during times of inflation. During the consultation procedure, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage noted that buoyancy in commercial rates is determined by the ARV decision (mentioned above in paragraph 124) and the valuation of commercial properties under the national revaluation programme undertaken by Tailte Éireann (formerly valuation office). It added that LPT buoyancy is determined by the addition of new properties and LPT revaluation.
However, the grants and subsidies are less flexible and usually require decisions by the relevant government authority for income to meet increasing costs. Some interlocutors told the rapporteurs that revenues do not always follow the cost increases in wages, personnel and materials that occurred during 2023 although the CCMA underlined that central government has provided significant compensation to the local government sector for the cost increases. During the consultation procedure, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage informed the rapporteurs that funding was provided to cover the cumulative effect on the local government sector of the increased costs arising from the implementation of national pay agreements and the unwinding of the financial emergency measures in public interests legislation. For instance, €287.2 million was secured to assist local authorities to meet their additional payroll costs in 2023, which represents a 37% increase (€78 million) in available funding compared to 2022 (€209.6 million). Furthermore, €60 million supplementary support is being provided for the local government sector in 2023 in recognition of the current funding pressures, and in particular the rising energy costs.
The rapporteurs note that there are differences between local authorities as local finances tend to be buoyant in counties with investment and population growth, but are more static in rural counties. They consider that in the current system, buoyancy is largely dependent on the central government as the types of revenues do not appear to be automatically adjusted to respond to inflation in a way that a local income tax would do.
Local authorities shall be entitled, in exercising their powers, to co-operate and, within the framework of the law, to form consortia with other local authorities in order to carry out tasks of common interest.
Article 10 regulates various aspects of local authorities’ right to associate, within the country as well as with local government in other countries. The first paragraph underlines that local authorities must be able to establish consortia with other local authorities for tasks of common interest.
Section 52 of the Local Government Act 2001 gives county councils the right to establish joint committees to carry out tasks jointly for several councils. Section 85 empowers local authorities to perform functions on behalf of their neighbouring local authorities. For example, Dublin City Council provides fire services and an emergency ambulance service also for the adjoining county councils.
The entitlement of local authorities to belong to an association for the protection and promotion of their common interests and to belong to an international association of local authorities shall be recognised in each State.
The second paragraph of the article is about the right for local authorities to join different types of interest organisations, both national and international. At national level, the most obvious organisations are national associations of local government. Local authorities should also be able to join international organisations that are in their interest.
In Ireland there are currently three local government associations – the AILG, the LAMA, which both represent elected councillors, and the CCMA, which represents chief executives who are professional administrators. There is no organisation in Ireland for the collective interest of local government; however, consultations occur between the different organisations. There is also an interest organisation for the regional assemblies – the AIR. Although membership in international organisations is permitted, the associations are not members of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions. The all-island local authority programme is a strategic partnership comprising of chief executives from the society of local authority chief executives in Northern Ireland and chief executives from the CCMA. It receives part of its funding from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
Local authorities in Ireland have the right to belong to associations.
Nevertheless, the lack of a joint voice for all aspects of local government is an anomaly in a European context, where local government associations are normally not divided between elected members and professional leaders. This is likely to weaken the protection of local self-government in Ireland. The rapporteurs would also welcome Irish local government associations as members of international associations as an additional way of supporting local self-government in Ireland.
Local authorities shall be entitled, under such conditions as may be provided for by the law, to co-operate with their counterparts in other States.
This paragraph can be seen as an extension of Article 10.1, but deals with the right for local authorities to co-operate with their counterparts in other states.
Local government in Ireland has full rights to co-operate with local authorities in other countries. Such co-operation is common with adjacent or near-adjacent local authorities in Northern Ireland, but councils also co-operate with local authorities in for example Scotland, Wales and England. During the consultation process, the AILG stressed that, however, the scope for co-operation with United Kingdom authorities is lessening as, since Brexit, European Union funding for Interreg type regional co-operation is no longer available to the United Kingdom partner local authorities. Local authorities may also work together with other European countries on European Union schemes while – although impacted by Covid-19 – local authorities maintain some town-twinning type links with local authorities internationally, as well as some outreach to expatriates in the United States of America and elsewhere.
Local authorities shall have the right of recourse to a judicial remedy in order to secure free exercise of their powers and respect for such principles of local self-government as are enshrined in the constitution or domestic legislation.
Article 11 concerns the right for local government to a judicial remedy in order to protect its interests if any aspect of local self-government is violated. The general principle is that local government should have the right to invoke and defend in the courts the principle of local self-government, especially when their rights and powers are challenged or curtailed or when those rights are endangered by higher levels of government. “Recourse to a judicial remedy” means access by a local authority to either a properly constituted court of law or an equivalent, independent, statutory body.
The Constitution of Ireland allows for a judicial review to be carried out by the High Court and the Supreme Court. According to Article 34.3.2 of the constitution: “Save as otherwise provided by this Article, the jurisdiction of the High Court shall extend to the question of the validity of any law having regard to the provisions of this constitution, and no such question shall be raised (whether by pleading, argument or otherwise) in any Court established under this or any other article of this constitution other than the High Court or the Supreme Court”. Although a local authority could challenge the constitutionality of legislation enacted by the Oireachtas in accordance with Article 34.3.2, it is highly unlikely to do so. Also, as pointed out in a written statement from the chief justice to the delegation, the commencement of litigation in the name of a local authority is a management/executive function. It would require a special resolution to be passed by councillors before any individual member of a local authority was empowered to issue proceedings in the name of the local authority.
Section 11(7) of the Local Government Act 2001 states that a local authority has the power to sue and to be sued in its corporate name. Although it is unusual that local government challenges the state, there is a recent example in the case of Cork County Council v (by order) the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Ireland and the Attorney General and the Office of the Planning Regulator, in November 2021. Cork County Council brought a challenge to a direction by the minister, made through the office of the planning regulator, that it should cancel a change to its development plan. The High Court found in favour of the council and quashed the minister’s decision.
Each Party undertakes to consider itself bound by at least twenty paragraphs of Part I of the Charter, at least ten of which shall be selected from among the following paragraphs:
– Article 2,
– Article 3, paragraphs 1 and 2,
– Article 4, paragraphs 1, 2 and 4,
– Article 5,
– Article 7, paragraph 1,
– Article 8, paragraph 2,
– Article 9, paragraphs 1, 2 and 3,
– Article 10, paragraph 1,
– Article 11.
Each Contracting State, when depositing its instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval, shall notify to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe of the paragraphs selected in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 of this article.
Any Party may, at any later time, notify the Secretary General that it considers itself bound by any paragraphs of this Charter which it has not already accepted under the terms of paragraph 1 of this article. Such undertakings subsequently given shall be deemed to be an integral part of the ratification, acceptance or approval of the Party so notifying, and shall have the same effect as from the first day of the month following the expiration of a period of three months after the date of the receipt of the notification by the Secretary General.
161. The Charter was ratified in Dáil Éireann on 20 March, 2002 and the instrument of ratification (with declarations) was deposited by Ireland on 14 May 2002, the treaty entering into force in Ireland on the 1 September 2002. The declaration attached to the ratification instrument stated that “Ireland considers itself bound by all the paragraphs of Part I of the Charter” (the substantive provisions of the Charter) and that “Ireland intends to confine the scope of the Charter to the following categories of authorities: county councils, city councils, town councils.” 162. The Congress outlined its understanding of the position of dualist States, including Ireland, in relation to the Charter in a memorandum at the 21st Session of the Chamber of Local Authorities on 28 September 2011. It accepts that Ireland is a dualist state and that the Charter does not have direct effect and consequently a direct application in domestic law without a further legal instrument. 163. It stated this of the Charter’s binding effect: “32. The Charter was conceived as an instrument with binding effects, entailing commitments under international law (and not domestic law). Countries signing and ratifying the Charter undertake to abide by it in that they will not only refrain from future adoption of domestic law provisions at variance with the Charter, but also amend any provisions which conflict with the Charter. 164. In the opinion of the rapporteurs, the expected commitment of Ireland to adopt all the principles expressed in the Charter into domestic legislation was partly reflected by the contents of the LGA 2001, but no further effort was made to harmonise or amend all the provisions of national legislation which conflict with the Charter after 2001. The rapporteurs maintain that there is no direct “conflict” between Irish legislation and the provisions of the Charter, although several important gaps exist in the legislation. 165. The rapporteurs welcome the publication of the Policy Paper “Putting People First” in October 2012. This document re-invents, so to speak, issues of local democracy in Ireland after more than a decade of non-realised proclamations (all the important points of this Policy Paper are discussed in topical parts of the report). A major programme of local government legislation is expected to proceed in 2013 to provide for the extensive reforms set out in the Action Programme. Assuming that legislative proposals will be adopted by the Parliament, the reflection of the spirit of the Charter in Irish public policy is expected to improve. 166. Some of the recommendations dating back to 2001 are still valid: Local authorities in Ireland still cannot be said to “regulate and manage a substantial share of public affairs”; the principle of subsidiarity is still not a primary concern in the allocation of public responsibilities. Local authorities’ discretion is still highly circumscribed through the use of statutory instruments and regulations to supplement laws, and the need to secure sanctions and prior approvals from national government for many activities. Consultation of local authorities over new legislation or financial decisions is not systematic. Local authorities are not provided with adequate or sufficiently diversified resources which are commensurate with the responsibilities of local government. Specific or earmarked grants still make up a significant proportion of central government transfers. 167. The rapporteurs had the opportunity to discuss with Minister Hogan the possibility of the signing and ratification of various Council of Europe legal instruments related to local democracy such as the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority (CETS No.: 207), the Additional Protocol to the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities (ETS No. 159), and the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level (ETS No. 144). 168. They were informed that, it is intended to give consideration to the issue of ratification of the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority as soon as possible in the context of implementation of the Action Programme. As regards the signature of the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level, the rapporteurs were given to understand that providing separate rights and arrangements for new-comers would run contrary to Ireland’s national policy, which is consistent with the European Common Basic Principles of Integration (established by the Council of the EU and the Governments of the Member States in 2005). Consequently, no development is to be expected on this particular point.
The principles of local self-government contained in the present Charter apply to all the categories of local authorities existing within the territory of the Party. However, each Party may, when depositing its instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval, specify the categories of local or regional authorities to which it intends to confine the scope of the Charter or which it intends to exclude from its scope. It may also include further categories of local or regional authorities within the scope of the Charter by subsequent notification to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.