It was a busy week of activity for AILG’s Members of the Irish Elected Member Delegation to the Council of Europe as they represented the State at the 45th Congress of Local & Regional Authorities (CLRAE) in Strasbourg.
The main story of the week was the Irish Monitoring Report, which the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (CLRAE) unanimously adopted on 25 October 2023 at the Plenary meeting.
The Irish Delegation, Cllr. Jimmy Moloney (Head of Irish Delegation), Cllr. Gobnait Moynihan (Deputy) and Cllr. John Crowe were present in the European Parliament hemicycle to welcome Minister Kieran O’Donnell, T.D., Minister for Local Government & Planning on what was his first visit to Strasbourg. The Minister was present to respond to the report findings which urged the Irish Government to devolve more powers to local government. The three Irish delegates welcomed the report as an accurate appraisal of Ireland’s local government system and contributed to the discussion on the Irish Monitoring Report.
The 45th Session of the Congress, which takes place over the course of three full days, also saw Irish delegate Cllr Jimmy Moloney elected as a Vice-Chairman of the Congress of Local & Regional Authorities in Europe. The Committee focusses on emerging issues being faced by the local governments in Europe including including digitalisation, migration, disaster management, local press, and youth issues in Europe. Cllr Moloney has been a delegate from Ireland to the Congress since 2019 and has a co-author of a well-received Council of Europe report on issues affecting rural youth throughout the continent.
A study compiled by Irish Delegate Cllr Anne Colgan on issues affecting urban local authorities in Europe received a strong endorsement at the assembly in Strasbourg. Cllr Colgan’s report – formally titled “European Charter III” drew on input from municipal members throughout the continent who are concerned with the policy leadership of urban municipalities. Key principles of the charter include: democracy and citizen participation; cultural and economic development; architecture and heritage; sustainable development & mobility; anti-corruption; security and crime prevention; and the pros and cons of digitalisation for the management of cities. The Charter will become a key text in the Council of Europe’s resources for local government policy-makers for a decade to come. At the formal presentation of the document to the Congress, Irish delegate Cllr Gobnait Moynihan, emphasised the need for urban leaders to tackle vacancy and dereliction so as to bring new life in to town centres and make best use out of assets already provided by public investment.
Ireland’s Head of Delegation, Cllr Jimmy Moloney, also made an intervention in a Congress hearing on the situation of local media and particularly the regional press throughout Europe. He pointed out that local press had been a friend to local government over decades and while by no means uncritical, the local media had given a visibility to the endeavours of local councillors. He said that local radio had no moved into this space but both the press and radio were under threat from digital sources who did not always have the same balanced view held by the conventional press. He pointed to a scheme that the Irish Government has brought forward by way of modest support for local democracy reporting and he commended that a similar support scheme be considered by other European states so as to maintain a vibrant local press serving communities.
A final copy of the Monitoring Report of Ireland can be found HERE.