Land agency Bill would ‘undermine local democracy’, councillors say

Government urged to halt Bill as council organises campaign of opposition

County councillors in Dublin have expressed concerns that the Government’s Land Development Agency (LDA) Bill will “undermine local democracy”.

At a specially-convened meeting of South Dublin County Council on Monday, members agreed to call on the Government to halt the progress of the LDA Bill, which is currently making its way through the Dáil.

Separately, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council unanimously resolved to rally other local authorities in a campaign of opposition to sections of the Bill.

The LDA is a key part of the Government’s plan to use State lands to fast-track the development of social and affordable homes.


The Bill to set up the agency is currently before the Oireachtas and contains a number of clauses which would divest councillors of their veto on land transfers relating to the new agency. The measures contained in the Bill are designed to prevent local authority members from delaying housing developments.

Local area planning

At the South Dublin County Council meeting, Social Democrats councillor Carly Bailey proposed a motion to put a stop to the Bill, which she believes would serve to “further undermine local democracy” in the planning of local areas.

Section 183 of the Local Government Act, which ensures councillors have a vote on the sale of local authority land to the LDA, is “one of the most important reserved functions delegated to elected members”, she said.

Solidarity councillor Kieran Mahon said the Bill signals the “removal of local democracy”, adding that it is important councillors value the powers they currently have. He called on the council to take a “much more aggressive approach” to what he said were the Government’s failed housing policies.

Guss O’Connell, an Independent, said the role of local councils has been gradually eroded over a number of years and the Bill will serve as the “death knell of county councils as we know them”.

Mayor of the county council, Fianna Fáil’s Ed O’Brien, said he shared some of the member’s concerns in relation to the removal of section 183 powers. However, he said Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has been clear that councils would only be bypassed in “limited circumstances”, where agreement on lands is not possible.

He noted that South Dublin County Council has had an “imperious record” in delivering housing projects, with the “vast majority” of housing projects passed by councillors.

All-party support

Meanwhile, a motion from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council cathaoirleach Una Power, rejecting the Bill’s provisions on “removing the role of the elected members of local authorities” was passed after receiving all-party support during an online meeting on Monday night.

Councillors also agreed to circulate the motion to each local authority and the Association of Irish Local Government, seeking their support in persuading Mr O’Brien to amend the Bill.

Ms Power, a Green Party councillor, said the motions recognised the councillors’ responsibility to use land “in the best interests of society”.

While many speakers said they supported the housing provision aims of the LDA, People Before Profit councillor Hugh Lewis said many local authority houses developed by the State had been developed without the agency.

He said the members should ask all councils “to stand up for those that are in need of social housing” and not engage “with speculators” to “repeat the mistakes of the past”.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist