Local government, citizen participation, voice, governance
Recent reforms provide for a greater role for citizens in determining local government policy in Ireland. This paper examines the changing structures which allow Irish citizens a role in policy making at local government level. The Taskforce on Active Citizenship (2007) found that there was a democratic deficit at local government level, due to a perceived absence of meaningful opportunities for civic participation in decision-making. They found then that citizen participation structures that were in place were not reaching all sectors within communities. Various reasons were advanced for this, among them: a lack of awareness of participation opportunities, lack of interest, commuting and working patterns, family commitments and lack of time and/or resources on the part of citizens. In October 2012 the Irish Government published Putting People First – Action Programme for Effective Local Government which set out Government policy for reform and a range of reforms have been codified in the Local Government Reform Act, 2014. This research study investigates the status of implementation of this legislation and whether or not intentions around citizen participation have been realised.