While a new system replacing 80 town councils and reducing the number of councillors by 42 per cent has virtually been signed, sealed and soon to be delivered, it has not stopped the reforms from remaining a hot topic for discussion at the upcoming annual conference of the Association of County and City Councils in Cavan .
To take place at the Slieve Russell Hotel between March 6-7, the theme of the conference is 'Councillors & Change... New Challenges for Irish Local Government’.
Among those to speak will be current ACCC president, Ballyconnell Fine Gael Cllr Peter McVitty.
While admitting it had been a “difficult year” in office amid all the changes being implemented, he told The Anglo-Celt that he hopes it will be a rewarding future for those involved after the May elections.
“It has been a big year for everyone involved in local government. A lot of my time as president has been taken up putting the necessary bits in place for when the changes come in. It’s been difficult at times, but we know what’s coming now. There will probably be some teething problems when it does, but we have to get on with it now and whoever is there after the elections, that they start working straight away for the benefit of the towns, cities and areas they serve,” he said.
Val Smyth, cathaoirleach, Cavan Council will welcome delegates on the opening day, Thursday, March 6; while keynote speakers on the day include Michael Hanlon, CEO, Lakeland Dairies and Jack Keyes, Cavan County Manager, who is to speak on the topic: 'Local Government in a Time of Change’.
Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan will officially open the working part of the conference on Friday when Irish Times political analyst, Noel Whelan, and Catherine Fox, communications consultant will also make presentations.
In the afternoon, Audrey Carville, presenter of the nightly Late Debate on RTE Radio 1 chairs a panel of three of the ACCC’s most experienced members in presenting the implications and the potential of the new Local Government Reform Bill for elected members. The panellists include former ACCC president, Cllr Constance Hanniffy (Offaly); vice president, Cllr Michael O’Brien (Kilkenny) and member of the Change Advisory Team, Cllr Padraig McNally (Monaghan).
John Tierney, Managing Director of Irish Water will also make a presentation, while Fergus O’Dowd, TD, Minister of State will act as after-dinner speaker.
A taste of Cavan
The attraction of so many senior area representatives to the region is not lost on those looking to promote the county, where on Thursday, conference participants are invited to take part in “A taste of Cavan” evening exhibition and sampling, which showcases products made by the thriving local food industry. The event will coincided with the local launch of Taste of Cavan 2014, which is being unveiled by renowned celebrity chef Richard Corrigan.
Meanwhile, a tour is available to delegates on the Friday, which will take them to visit the west Cavan geopark and Neven Maguire’s culinary establishment at Blacklion.