‘Very divergent views’ about role to be played by councillors

Independent review wants explanation of link between a councillor’s representational payment and a Senator’s salary

Ireland must decide what it wants its local authority councillors to do before final decisions can be made on what they should be paid, a Government-ordered review has indicated.

Senior counsel Sara Moorhead, who was asked in June to conduct an independent review of the role and remuneration of councillors, has submitted an interim report to the Government. Saying that there are "very divergent views" about the role to be played by councillors, Ms Moorhead said: "It seems that the question of the type of representation which is wanted at local government level is highly problematic."

Some believe councillors should be full-time, and paid accordingly. However, this would deprive some people “from active involvement in their community and forming part” of local government.

Because of growing demands “it appears to be unrealistic to expect them to attend to their functions in the working day”, she said, adding that councillors display “a degree of resistance” to returning to part-time evening work.


Given the diverging “strong views” even within political parties, Ms Moorhead says it is going to be “a difficult task to reconcile positions and to do so without clearly defining a future way forward for local government as a whole”.

She has asked the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to explain the current link between a councillor’s representational payment and the salary paid to members of Seanad Éireann.

She has also asked for its views on a “general rebalancing of councillors’ remuneration away from largely tax-free allowances and expenses to an increased salary-type payment and modest tax-free expenses”.

A complicated system of tax-free travel and subsistence allowances has evolved in recent years, leading some to view them as “income” when they should only be viewed as reimbursements for expenses .

“Given the complexities involved, and the range of perspectives among stakeholders, it is clear that a considerable amount of work remains to be undertaken.”

Her final report is due in April.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times