FINE Gael’s David Naughton will not be contesting next year’s local elections, having declined the nomination to stand when party’s selection convention took place on Sunday.
But as he prepares to quit representative politics, the Ballysteen man, whose family has long roots in Fine Gael and who has served as a Fine Gael councillor since 1991, has warned about the future of local government.
”Councillors’ powers have been seriously eroded,” he said in an interview with the Limerick Leader this week. And that erosion has not stopped, he argued, pointing to the transfer of water services to Irish Water as a more recent example. “I am opposed to the privatisation of water,” said the man who also opposed the privatisation of Limerick County Concil’s refuse collection.
He also cites the transfer of third-level grants payments away from the local authorities as yet another mistake.
“Some of the students haven’t been paid yet for last year,” he said. “They didn’t leave it with the local authories and they made a hash of it.”
Removing local representation on various bodies and calling it local government reform finds no favour with Cllr Naughton.
And he regrets in particular the removal of councillors from health boards. “We were the voice of the people. Now the people have no voice,” he said.
He is also less than impressed with some of the changes involved in the amalgamation of Limerick city and county councils.
“I am bitterly disappointed with the decision that only city councillors can vote for the Mayor while all the councillors vote for the Cathaoirleach. That wasn’t whay county councillors went for amalgamation. We wanted full amalgamation.Why not have the Mayor for all of Limerick? “
He also expressed concern about commercial rates. Rates in the city need to come down far more to the level of county rates, he argued. But instead, his fear is that county rates will be raised to that of the city.
However, Cllr Naughton said he had enjoyed his many years as a local councillor and is particularly pleased that Limerick’s regional roads are among the best in the country.
Cllr Naughton served as Cathaoirleach from 2009 to 2010. It was a great honour, he acknowledged to the Limerick Leader but he believes he took on the job far too soon after the death, in January 2009, of his wife Geraldine.
“I had a good chat with myself after my wife passed away and I felt I had given too much to politics. It is 24/7 and encroaches on your life.”
However, he added: “I don’t regret it. It was a wonderful experience. It has been a wonderful 23 years.”
“I think the best campaign I ever did was the first campaign in 1991,” Cllr Naughton added.
At the time, no-one was expecting him to get elected on 575 first preferences but the count saw number nine preferences become number ones for Naughton and he was elected.
“I am going out at the top,” he said, with some satisfaction, pointing to the 1400-plus votes he received in 2009.
Cllr Naughton will continue to serve the Rathkeale area until next year’s local elections.
In the course of his political career, Cllr Naughton served at different times as a member of the Mid-Western Health Board, of Foynes Harbour Board and of Shannon Foynes Port Company. He is also a former chairman of GVM Marts and is currently a board member.