We had best not open up a debate on hurling between Kilkenny and Wexford. Perhaps it would be useful to Members were I to comment on this. I welcome the supportive comments about what the Minister has done for Kilkenny. I share the views about the special nature and character of the city which is unique. While we all feel those places with which we are intimate are unique, Kilkenny is special.
A range of official amendments relating to the question of boroughs and to the historical position of Kilkenny were made to the Bill during its passage through the other House. The substantive sections in this regard are this section and section 11. These will continue the term "borough" in local government law and allow the term "city" to be used for Kilkenny.
The Bill as published used the term "town" to apply to all towns in line with everyday language and "town council" to apply to all 80 town based local authorities. Section 10 deals with local government areas and section 11 with the local authorities for the areas concerned. Under section 10, local government areas are known as counties, cities and towns. The use of the term "town" was a cause of concern for a number of authorities known as boroughs. These are Clonmel, Drogheda, Kilkenny, Sligo and Wexford. There were concerns that this change in terminology represented a diminution in status. Perhaps I should give some background as to where these proposals originated.
There was a specific proposal in the White Paper published by the previous Government that modern terminology would be applied to local government and that the terms "city", "county" and "town" should be used in modern law. This was recommended in the Barrington report in 1990 and by the commission on town local government in 1996. There was never any question of diminution in status. What was involved was using language which might have more meaning to the layman. Very few people refer to borough centres or borough people, rather to town centres and town people. In some of these towns, the tourism literature refers to town rather than borough. Kilkenny is the exception. When private sector enterprise in these towns advertises, it tends to use the term "town", and that is the term in use in everyday language. The issue is the use of everyday language.
However, the Minister, as part of a wide consultation exercise, met the five mayors of the authorities concerned and, in light of their concerns, undertook to provide that the five towns concerned would continue to be boroughs for the purpose of local government law, and their local authorities will in future be titled as borough councils. The series of official amendments in the other House to sections 10 and 11 and a number of related amendments were designed to achieve this aim.
The effect of the new section 10(3) is that what are currently boroughs will continue to be known as boroughs and all other towns which are currently styled as urban district councils or town commissioners will in future be styled as towns. Therefore, the special historical position of Kilkenny was dealt with by way of an additional subsection (7) to section 10. A new section 11(4)(b) inserted by way of amendment in the Dáil provides that the local authorities for the boroughs created under section 10 will be known as borough councils and the local authorities for the other towns will be known as town councils. References in the Act to a town council will, where necessary, be read as including both town councils and borough councils.
New provisions to recognise the term "city" to describe Kilkenny in line with long-established historical and municipal practice were brought in. Kilkenny was reconstituted as a borough corporation under the Municipal Corporations Act, 1840, as were Clonmel, Drogheda and Sligo. Section 2 of the 1840 Act specifically provided that Kilkenny is a borough which is still the current legal position in local government law. Traditionally, however, Kilkenny had been referred to as a city and this has its roots in local usage, deriving from a 17th century charter. It has not been a city in terms of local government law for at least 160 years.
As I have indicated, the Bill as published specifically provides that local charters can continue for ceremonial or related purposes, thereby safeguarding local tradition and practice. There was, therefore, no difficulty in Kilkenny continuing with this long-established tradition. However, Kilkenny Corporation indicated that it was concerned that the existing provisions in the Bill would not maintain the status quo in addition to concerns with the other boroughs that the term “town” was some form of diminution of status. In view of these concerns the Minister indicated that he would include a provision in the Bill to specifically recognise the traditional usage of the term “city” to describe Kilkenny. For the first time ever in the Local Government Act the unique position of Kilkenny is being recognised in local government law.
The Minister honoured in full his commitment on Kilkenny and delivered on what the deputation from Kilkenny sought. It was never intended that Kilkenny would be a city such as Dublin or Cork. All Kilkenny wanted was to be allowed to continue to use the term "city" in recognition of its ancient tradition. The deputation expressed its satisfaction to the Minister on his proposal.