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Lugh Ildánach

Residents Associations and Democracy

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The country has thousands of residents and tenants associations and they essentially act as the most localised tier of local government. In theory they represent the organisation of residents' interests, yet in reality they often beomce no more than cliques of bourgeois social climbers.

 

So what status do they have under Free State law? What powers do they have? What rights do tenants or residents have in relation to them? What do we need to know to use (if indeed it is even safe to use them) or organise against these structures for true proletarian democracy?

 

OK, well the starting point is section 128 of the Local Government Act 2001, which defines these bodies http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/2001/en/act/pub/0037/sec0128.html#sec128 and gives them some limited statutory footing.

 

Basically the Act says that a local authority can recognise any body (whether incorporated or not) as a recognised association where it is of the opinion that:

 

"the body is concerned with promoting the interests of the local community, or any part of or group within the local community, or of all or a part of the administrative area of that local authority"

 

Once a body is recognised, the local authority can then delegate some of its functions to the association and can consult with the association and give it money. The Department of the Environment has the power to make regulations about recognised associations, but my searches have not found any regulations that have been made under these provisions.

 

In considering whether to recognise an association, the authority may consider (although it is not obliged to do so) whether the body is properly constituted and representative, and also whether there are suitable financial controls/accounting procedures in place. In otherwords, the associations must adopt a bourgeois form. Hardly surprising.

 

So, the first lesson from this for the revolutionary is that if there is a body which is already declared to be a recognised association, and which it is likely that revolutionaries can gain control of, it does give them certain access to local government structures. Caution however should be exercised at all times, as with all institutions of the bourgeois democraphobia.

 

The more likely scenario however is that these groups will already be firmly in the hands of conservative and reactionary elements within our community. What then are our options?

 

Well, firstly, it is likely that any of these associations have a formal constitution, or they would face great difficulties being recognised by a local authority. They could be unincorporated associations, or they could be companies limited by either share capital, or more likely, by guarantee. Unincorporated Associations, as they are not legal entitites separate from their members, would probably require some sort insurance against claims (residents association insurance providers exist), while companies limited by guarantee are a separate entity from their members, although must file audited accounts in the Company Registration Office.

 

A resident would have the right to ask for the Constitution from one of these groups to see if it was being adhered to. An association of residents is in reality a form of contract, and if the Constitution was not being adhered to, an agrieved person could sue. Incorporated associations would be subject to Company Law.

 

If an association was being unco-operative, there would also be avenues through the local authority. Representations could be made to the local authority that the association was failing in its representative obligations, and pressure could be brought to bear through some of the bureaucratic nerds in the local authority who pride themselves on all things procedural. Freedom of Information requests, and ultimately threat of review by the bourgeois institutions of the Ombudsman, Department of Environment and/or the High Court could be used to obtain information and to at least force associations to comply with their own bourgeois rules.

 

But ultimately, alternative organisation is the key. Seeking recognition from the bourgeois state should never be the ultimate goal of the revolutionary, but in some cases, it may prove useful for some short-term objectives. Creating truly democratic institutions, truly representative of the people, accounatble to local assemblies, with recallable delegates. These could, in theory at least, meet the terms of the above legislation. Recognised or not, such local bodies would have real democratic legitimacy, and could challenge the traditional "recognised associations", which will no doubt adopt a familiar undemocratic form, with small committees elected once a year, unaccountable for the other 364 days of the year, and with all other citizens frozen out of the picture except for the annual general meeting, and that is if they are even told of it.

 

So, we now know the form of the enemey, all that remains is for us to take the fight to them.

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Guest Connolly

The ACRA newsheets are always very good. You'd expect an organisation like ACRA to be banal and conservative, but infact they are very outspoken. They have some 'respectability' so their outspoken newsheets are often found in places you wouldnt expect such views to be promoted. Doctors surgeries etc.

 

http://iol.ie/~acra/

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