The success of the county councils was due most notably to their being run, not by politicians, but by people with a goal primarily of being of public service, be they the council's servants or the council's members. They were also run on consensual principles - there was none of that sterile confrontation of inflexible ideologies which is passed off as Northern Ireland politics nowadays.
Our local governance in Northern Ireland is the worst in Europe in terms of quality and local accountability - in practical terms democracy has ceased to exist. We are vouchsafed the right to vote for a slightly augmented number of Westminster MPs, it is true, but the dismal quality of our public representation makes that democratic fig-leaf look decidedly moth-eaten.
Root and branch reform is needed. But the de facto political void of the last quarter-century has debased the quality of participants in our political life, and worse, has seen the death of the public service ethos of that older generation who made up the county councils and Stormont (yes, even Stormont!). So how do we bring back that ethos? "Aye, and there's the rub."
Philip G Gormley
Magherafelt, Co DerryReuse content