The Government is opposing a bill seeking to re-establish Town Councils which was put forward by the Labour Party in the Dáil this afternoon.

Introducing the private members bill, the Labour Leader acknowledged that his party was in Government when 80 town councils were abolished.

Deputy Brendan Howlin said he personally regretted that the Government of which he was a member made that a decision.

The Bill seeks to provide a mechanism for the restoration of Town Councils in urban areas with a population of at least 5,000 residents, and 1,000 or more dwellings with a clearly defined urban centre. It suggests that each Council elect a minimum of 9 councillors.

For towns with a population over 25,000, 15 councillors would be elected and there would be one local electoral area for each town.

The Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government described the timing of the bill as "premature" because the issues raised in it form part of the report on local government matters which has been submitted to the Government and the Oireachtas under the Programme for a Partnership Government.

Minister Damien English said the report was submitted to the Committee for consideration in April. "It is therefore appropriate at this time to allow the Joint Oireachtas Committee the time to complete their deliberations before making any decisions", he said.

Fianna Fáil Deputy Shane Cassells described the decision by the Labour - Fine Gael Government as unforgivable, because he said it centralised powers and crippled small and large towns "to run their own show".

He equated the Labour Leader's "mea culpa story" to ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ with the feathers coming out of his mouth as he begs forgiveness for culling councils that "represented the beating heart of so many towns".  

Sinn Féin Deputy Imelda Munster described Labour's bill as "the height of hypocrisy" due to the fact that the party voted for the abolition of town councils when it was in Government.

She said the Labour party "talked the talk" in opposition but "sells the country out" when it is in power.