With some county councils also amalgamated and refined, the reforms led to a cut of 678 councillors. Most significantly, at local authority level, power was handed over to municipal district bodies.
With 80 town councils dissolved, the municipal district bodies are governing larger areas and reporting in turn, in some cases, to more swollen county councils.
The department says the review is “merely procedural” and a timely exercise after two years of change. However, already, there are signs the structures are creaking and unwieldy. The loss of town councils, which saw the exit of the centrally-located town halls, town clerk, offices and local councillors, are particularly bemoaned.
Instead of movement radiating from a centre, the power has been dispersed. Filling the vacuum in many towns, with support from county councils’ executive staff, are chambers of commerce and tourism.
According to Independent Alliance Councillor Michael Gleeson such bodies have no statutory powers. However, the former town councillor said they cannot decide on a rate and are not elected by the people. He said the loss to some towns, such as tourist hotspot Killarney, was already apparent.
“The area was transformed over the past 20 or so years, culminating in its overall victory in the national Tidy Towns competition in 2012. Now, inappropriate signage is beginning to appear much more frequently and the same attention is not being paid to the town by Kerry County Council,” added Cllr Gleeson.