At a time when governments are grappling with increasingly complex problems, state-led participatory processes that facilitate citizen and community voice in decision-making and policymaking have become more common at national, regional and local government levels. In Ireland, citizen participation in government has achieved prominence in the last thirty years with the introduction of social partnership and more recent establishment of multiple and diverse forms of participatory governance, nationally, regionally and locally. This paper offers a critique of the evolution and operation of local participatory governance in Ireland. The paper argues that to be effective, participatory governance requires strong and inclusive participatory processes at all levels of government, a clear ideological and policy basis, a coherent ‘joined-up’ programme and receptive institutional foundations.
Given the changes in the Irish economy since the economic crisis and, more specifically, reforms in the local government sector, this paper reassesses the financial position and fiscal sustainability of local authorities in Ireland. To do this we employ a local government financial performance framework that measures liquidity and solvency, but also operating performance and collection rates, for different sources of revenue income. Using financial data sourced from local council income and expenditure accounts and balance sheets, we report and analyse the financial position and performance during the 2007–17 period. The results indicate an improvement in the financial performance of local councils since the early 2010s. Cross-council differences persist, in particular, between large urban local authorities and smaller rural local authorities, albeit only for the liquidity and operating performance measures. Among the small rural councils, Sligo County Council’s financial position, although improving, remains a serious matter with ongoing consultation with and monitoring by central government. To help improve the measurement of local authority financial performance we recommend inclusion of this framework in the local authority Annual Financial Statement and also in the Performance Indicator Report with a view to making financial reports more accessible and transparent to citizens and taxpayers and, ultimately, to help improve performance and service delivery by the local authorities.
Collaboration is an important means of tackling local socio-economic challenges. This paper looks at how the collaborative capacity of Ireland’s community development leaders can be improved. The most recent efforts to establish a more coordinated and coherent approach to community development saw the introduction of a new local committee structure, known as local community development committees (LCDCs). LCDCs were expected to enhance collaboration between public, private and third sector socio-economic partners. However, effective intersectoral collaboration is often difficult to attain. A programme of capacity building can play a key part in supporting collaborative working between local leaders. Based on the findings from a place-based leadership development workshop, this paper discusses the barriers to collaboration facing community development leaders and how these might be overcome. Surfacing and working through tensions to enable clarity, through enhanced mutual understanding and strong relationships across community development committees, is vitally important. To this end, a practical and evidence-based approach to improving collaboration between local leaders is argued for.