O’Brien wants communites to make council budget decisions

8th October, 2013

Joe O'Brien at the Constitutional Convention in Malahide recently where it was decided to give Irish emigrants a vote in Presidential elections

Joe O’Brien at the Constitutional Convention in Malahide recently where it was decided to give Irish emigrants a vote in Presidential elections

For the majority of my professional life I have been working successfully on ways to bridge the gap between the citizen and central government, now I want to bring this experience to the local level and help make local government more democratic. I have been knocking on doors for the last 12 months and the underlying theme of the various issues that constituents have raised is the gap between themselves and what should be their local government. We need to bring local government closer to the people. If elected next year to Fingal County Council I will make it one of my priorities to give the public more input into the decision making processes of their local government. I have already started the ball rolling on this as last month myself and Dr. Gemma Carney of NUI Galway submitted a proposal to Fingal County Council to initiate a Participatory Budgeting process. Participatory Budgeting is where the citizens of an estate, community, village or town make the decisions on how the money is spent in their area. It has been done successfully across the globe and now it is time that Fingal lead the way in Ireland in terms of democratic reform and initiates this process. Of course Participatory Budgeting is something that has been suggested in the Department of the Environment’s document on reform of local government. I am trying to make sure that this report is not another dust gatherer and that we take what is best out of it and actually try to implement it! The basic method that is used in Participatory Budgeting which is essentially a community decision making process has already been working successfully in Fingal at the Constitutional Convention in Malahide. I observed at the Constitutional Convention some weeks back and it was genuinely exciting to see ordinary people deciding the direction of the country in a much more democratic and open way to our supposedly representative democratic system where politicians and civil servants are making the decisions. It was doubly exciting to see the Convention decide that emigrants should get a vote in Presidential elections – this was particularly close to my heart as I have worked with Irish emigrants for 9 years now with Crosscare. We canvassed for a ‘No’ vote in the Seanad Referendum and now we need to see real political reform at this level. Senators should be directly elected by all the people and the citizen led decision making process that is happening at the Constitutional Convention in Malahide could also be replicated in the Seanad. For me though it is one of my priorities to make local government more democratic and closer to the people – reform needs to happen at all levels of government in Ireland and I hope my proposal will get the ball rolling in Fingal County Council. To read the proposal please click on the link below

Proposal for Participatory Budgeting in Fingal County Council