‘Communities in Control’ 7th October 2014 10 – 1.30 pm Lough Allen Hotel, Drumshanbo
How can Community Groups in Leitrim best engage in the Public Participation Network Process?
North and South Leitrim Community Networks Joint Seminar
funded by Leitrim Development Company
The presentations were given by Michelle Murphy (from Social Justice Ireland, whose director Seán Healy was part of the original working group) and Teresa Butler (North Leitrim Community Network, Manorhamilton), followed by workshops, feedback, and an open discussion.
It was attended by at least 20 people from a variety of Leitrim community groups. Helen Witts and Bea Cullen were representing Leitrim Residents’ Associations Network.
Michelle outlined the reasons for setting up the new national PPN structure. While some counties already have a community decision-making process which has been working well at grassroots level (eg. Leitrim Community Forum), many others do not. The Public Participation Networks are intended to address this gap and be fully transparent. But in practice lack of clarity and over-technical language (drafted by civil servants) in the original report has just created confusion as to how the new system should be implemented. Also the new structure is being seen as very hierarchical and rigid, and unnecessary, leading to a lot of cynicism.
Teresa reported on her telephone interviews with representatives from both community groups and local councils in regions where the PPN process has already been in operation on a pilot basis. Her interviewees were based in South Dublin, Co. Tipperary, Galway City, and Co. Laois. Experiences varied from very positive in Co Tipperary where the council has good links with the Community Forum, to little progress in Co. Laois due to lack of council staff to implement the new system. The interpretation of the guidelines depends very much on the county / city manager in overall charge of each PPN.
The seminar workshops were very constructive, and participants came up with many recommendations as well as critcisms. The intention was to collate these and present them to the Council. It was felt it would be very helpful to follow up with further sessions. A speaker from Leitrim Co. Council is to be invited to address the community network group on these issues at a meeting towards the end of November. It was noted that registration under one of the three pillars (Environment, Social Inclusion, and Voluntary) is still possible, and forms are available from Gerry Doherty. It is important for all community groups to be registered individually (even where there is an umbrella group like Leitrim Residents’ Associations Network) to ensure their existence is recognised, and they are on the county list.
For detailed information on the PPN process please click the links below (documents in pdf):