One-stop public consultation website needed

Damian Moran

Reporter:

Damian Moran

Fine Gael Laois/Offaly TD, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, has called on the Government to consider setting up a website to act as a hub for all issues subject to public consultation.

Fine Gael Laois/Offaly TD, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, has called on the Government to consider setting up a website to act as a hub for all issues subject to public consultation.

Deputy Corcoran Kennedy received a positive response to her proposal from the Minister of State, Brian Hayes TD, when she raised the idea during Topical Issues in the Dáil earlier.

“It makes sense to have one central website where people can go to make submissions on any issue which is subject to public consultation. Members of the public frequently tell me that they heard about the public consultation process on a particular issue too late, and as a result didn’t have their voice heard. If we had one central website, it would be much easier for the public to have their say on a range of important issues.

“The website could include government departments, State agencies, semi-State companies, local authorities and Oireachtas Committees. It could be operated along the lines of the e-tenders website and has the potential to be a real piece of reform in terms of improving the relationship between the public and our State bodies.

“We have all changed the way we communicate. Traditionally, when a matter was put out to public consultation, an ad was placed in the local paper and it might have been discussed on local radio. Now, we are communicating much more online, and while traditional methods should remain available, a one stop online hub for public consultation could greatly help to encourage more people to have their say on important matters.

“Public consultation is one of the most effective ways for citizens to have a genuine input on issues which will affect their local area. For example, I know that Eirgrid was subject to much criticism for its recent consultation process on pylons, but it ensured that Minister Pat Rabbitte was made fully aware of the public’s concerns and views, and he has set up an independent panel to review whether pylons can be put underground.

“In terms of Oireachtas Committees, I know from my own work with the Justice Committee that the level of public participation when we invite consultation is often disappointingly low. But having one central online hub for all types of public consultation processes could help to increase the level of public input.

“I received a very positive response on this matter from Minister Brian Hayes in the Dáil, who explained that the Government is examining best international practice when it comes to online consultation to consider how we can improve our system here, including the production of a pilot website before the summer.”