– Excerpts from reports by Dr Brendan O’Keeffe, Niall Crowley, Debra Mountford, Seán O’Riordan:


“The introduction, through a new committee (Socio-Economic Committee), of a Local and Community Plan will give added focus to mainstreaming local, community and rural development issues into local government services.
“More interestingly is that this local effort will be underpinned by a national policy framework which will be overseen by an inter-departmental committee, providing, hopefully, a similar level of integration and policy alignment at the national level.
“Coming up with workable models to do so is going to be a major challenge, but given the pressures on communities across the State, no one will be thanked if local, rural and community development are disrupted, no matter the benefits of underpinning local democracy.
“While integration with local authority support services will bring the potential for greater resource synergy at local level, there is a risk that the positive experiences of the local development companies might be lost…
“Sometimes being the facilitator might be more strategically appropriate than being actually responsible for the delivery of the immediate service.”
– Extract from ‘Alignment of Local Government and Local Development’, by Seán O’Riordan and Associates, November 15, 2012.


“In ‘Putting People First’, Minister Hogan has set out a very ambitious agenda for local government and local economic development in Ireland. It has the potential to recalibrate local government and local democracy.
“The reforms seem focused on putting local economic development very much at the heart of the recovery. That seems to be building on a couple of decades of dedicated work at the local level through the Local Development Companies, through the partnership approach, but different times require different responses.
“What the reforms are setting out is the opportunity for the Local Development Companies, or local government, the different partnership groups, business, trade unions, to begin to work together in a different way, a more collaborative way that is very much focused around jobs and an inclusive growth agenda.”
– Debra Mountford, a senior policy analyst with OECD LEED, the worldwide network of local development practitioners. She spoke at a conference titled ‘Implementing Change – A new Local Agenda for Jobs and Growth’ organised in co-operation with the EU Presidency, the Irish Government and Pobal in March.


“Civil society and voluntary organisations have been vibrant in Ireland and have filled service provision and development gaps caused by the absence of a municipal tier of government; yet central government is attempting to subjugate the local development sector to excessive administrative controls and to dismantle collaborative governance. Yes, there is tremendous potential for local government reform and renewal, the signposts are in place – we just need to follow them.”
Dr Brendan O’Keeffe of Mary I College, UL, in his report Local Government in Times of Austerity – Reflections on Ireland’, published in 2012.
Spotting key priorities for future development is not easy when there are a plethora of local actors working on different strategies and in different partnerships at the local level.
“At a time when public budgets are becoming increasingly tight such fragmentation is no longer acceptable. As governments reduce spending in order to pay off their deficits it will be important to make public policy more efficient, through reducing duplication and better aligning activities locally.
“Many lessons exist from different OECD countries on how to make local governance more effective, and now is a good time to put these into practice. LEED research shows that it is often following a crisis that people really come together and work for a common future.”
– From ‘Putting in Place Jobs that Last – A Guide to Rebuilding Quality Employment at Local Level’, by Francesca Froy and Sylvain Giguère, published in OECD LEED Working Papers, 2010/13.
“The local action groups should be made up of representatives of local public and private socio-economic interests, such as entrepreneurs and their associations, local authorities, neighbourhood or rural associations, groups of citizens (such as minorities, senior citizens, women/men, youth, entrepreneurs, etc.), community and voluntary organisations, etc. Civil society and private sector partners should have at least 50% of the decision-making power and no single interest group should have more than 49% of the votes.
– From an EU factsheet on ‘Cohesion Policy 2014-2020’.


“The voice of many community organisations has grown cautious. Funding relationships have to be sustained and the state is the core funder for much of the sector. So protest remains unvoiced in the public arena, dissent is diminished and advocacy is limited within careful boundaries. An agenda for survival has taken over.”
Niall Crowley in his paper ‘Lost in Austerity: Rethinking the Community Sector’, published by the Third Sector Research Centre in June 2012.