Hundreds of Elected Representatives and delegates from across Ireland visited Kilkenny last week to attend the Association of Irish Local Government (AILG) Annual Training Conference.
The Association of Irish Local Government (AILG) held their Annual Training Conference on the 19th and 20th of April, hosting over 300 Councillors from across Ireland at Hotel Kilkenny for a packed programme of discussion which included a special interview and panel discussion between TV presenter Mary Kennedy and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the historic Good Friday Agreement.
Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council and President of the AILG, Cllr. Pat Fitzpatrick was on hand to welcome councillors from across Ireland and said it was an ‘honour’ to welcome his fellow delegates to Kilkenny and show them all that the county has to offer. “We are absolutely delighted with the turnout for the conference which had over 300 delegates in attendance and was absolutely brilliant not only for local businesses but also for the promotion of Kilkenny city and the surrounding areas.”
Discussion topics during the seminar included housing, rural and urban regeneration, delivering on Local Authority Climate Action Plans, and taking an All-Island Approach to addressing threats, harassment and abuse of councillors.
Guest speakers included the Mayor of Kilkenny, Cllr. David Fitzgerald and Tim Butler, Director of Services for Kilkenny County Council who delivered a presentation which showcased a number of initiatives and projects taking place in Kilkenny. Mr. Paul O’Brien, National Environment Committee Chairman of the IFA and Breda Maher, Regional Coordinator of the Eastern & Midlands Climate Action Regional Office (CARO) explored how urban and rural regeneration can help the local government sector not only reach Climate Action and Housing targets but to also help local authorities secure lasting and sustainable growth for local communities.
This session was then followed by a special commemoration of the Good Friday Agreement where former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern received a standing ovation from delegates as he took to the stage to discuss the historic peace deal with TV presenter Mary Kennedy. During their conversation, Mr Ahern spoke about the current situation in Stormont, the legacy of the Good Friday Agreement for future generations and how politicians can continue to promote peace and reconciliation on the island.
An engaging discussion then followed in the afternoon on taking an All-Island Approach to address threats, harassment and abuse of councillors.
Sergeant Peter McConnon, Crime Prevention Officer for the Carlow, Kilkenny and Waterford Division offered advice to delegates on personal safety following the growing number of councillors speaking out about online and offline political violence they are experiencing.
Alison Allen, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) and her colleague Lisa O’ Kane then delivered recent research findings conducted by NILGA into the level of abuse on councillors, their families and business. Over 76% of respondents said they had been abused, which correlated with the statistics of AILG’s own research carried out in 2021 with councillors. Both associations committed to working together to combine experience, expertise and networks to offer resources, training and events to support councillors, and to deliver campaigns to raise awareness of the impact of this issue.
Minster Kieran O’Donnell TD, Minister for Local Government and Planning, was on hand to close the successful two-day event where he and AILG President Cllr. Fitzpatrick launched AILG’s 2023 Training Brochure which provides tailored training and education programmes to the 949 city and county councillors across the state.
A special presentation was also made to Cllr. Mary Freehill from Dublin City Council during the evening who is stepping down from politics after 43 years of service to local government.
The AILG is a networking, policy development and training resource for the elected members of Ireland’s 31 County and City councils.