Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail voted down the Council Budget for 2014. Along with Independent, John Campbell, they defeated Fine Gael and Labour by 15 votes to 13 so the budget wasn’t passed.

The main reason is that they are protesting against the government unilaterally take the water department of Donegal Council and incorporating it into Irish water. With that went land assets worth €355 million. One would presume that Donegal Council could have sold bits of it for pet projects if they had wanted to – but they can’t now.

Cut Budget

A second gripe is that the council agreed a budget last year but the Government cut it and they would fully expect them to do the same this year. They are saying that council workers are being asked to do more for less.

Back of the Queue

A third gripe is that, in the week when Padraig Mac Lochlainn revealed that the Irish Development Agency did not create a single job in Donegal in 2013 (Gillen’s shop created more than the IDA), there is a feeling that Donegal is very much to the back of the queue when help is being given.

There would be sympathy for that, I should think, even amongst the Fine Gael and Labour Councillors who are also Donegal residents.


The UK doesn’t have a centralised water system. I worked for Anglian Water and Thames Water as a contract IT Consultant. What is centralised is the National Rivers Authority which polices the different water authorities throughout the land.

I would assume that the Government here has something similar to the NRA so this will mean that the Government will now be policing itself as regards water – and that’s never a good idea.

I would imagine that they used the argument that they needed to centralise it to cut costs – but will there be a better service?

We all know what happened when the big banks centralised their decision-making away from local bank managers.

Centralised Power

There seems to be this idea in Dublin that everything is best done there. The big banks found that wasn’t correct to their cost and the country’s cost.

Power in Ireland is very much centralised in the Dail – more so than perhaps any country in Western Europe. Even countries like Luxembourg have a more Democratic system with more levers of Government. The Isle of Man has, for goodness sake.

Basically, virtually all power is centralised in the Dail. The President is just a hand shaker. They even tried to get rid of the Seanad even though it had so few powers that it rarely acted.

Local Level

Even at local level most power is centralised. In the UK local councils take money in via a property tax. They decide what gets done and what money pays for what projects. It is nothing to do with the central Government.

The Government take all the money in here and then decide what the local councils can have. They keep control of the purse strings. They even appoint a County Manager to keep an eye on them. I think I’m correct in saying that the County Manager pays the Council staff. You know what they say about whoever pays the piper.

Now the Government has decided to centralise the water departments and to gift themselves assets worth €355 million from Donegal Council.


It must be frustrating to be a local councillor here and find yourself with far less power than councillors in Britain and other countries. It must be frustrating to see a land grab by the Government and further centralising of power via Irish Water.

I think that a lot of people will be sympathetic to the position Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail have taken and to their protest.

But should they self-immolate and pull the Council down next Monday on a point of Principle?

We shall leave that for a follow-up article.