24 March 2015
By Bryan T. Smyth
It appears that Cork City Council and Cork County Council will merge, and it will happen in the next 4 years. That means the local election of 2014 could have been the last where there were two authorities. Yesterday, there was a presentation for County Councillors in County Hall. The media outside – including TheCork.ie – were not allowed into the chamber as it was held “in committee”.
One would think a majority of Councillors would be against a merger as surely there will have to be cost savings and a merged chamber would have less Councillors in it. One Councillor speaking under condition of anonymity said “Turkey’s will never vote for Christmas”, but a majority seem to view a merger as a fait accompli local authorities – nationally – are finding it hard to make ends meet, already there have been mergers elsewhere. BOrdering Cork the formerly seperate North and South Tipperary County Councils have merged (you may have noticed how former TN and TS car registations changed to just “T”)
Today TheCork.ie spoke with a Sinn Féin representative.
Sinn Féin Councillors on Cork County Council are against to the County Council’s submission to the Local Government Committee. The Councils submission, backed by a majority of Cllrs, favoured either a minimal expansion, or the more preferred option of a merger, to have one Local Authority for all of Cork.
According to Sinn Féin Cllr Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, this would be an extremely damaging decision if the committee agreed to it.
“The idea that one local Authority would be able to deal with all the issues in Togher and Mahon at one side, and in Castletownbere and Rockchapel on the other is madness. It would be very damaging to both City and County if they were merged and would lead to a lack of focus on the key issues in each area, which are very different. The City has had it’s own unit of Local Government for hundreds of years and that has to be recognised.”
“We have already seen the abolition of the Town Councils, affecting West Cork in particular, and this would represent Local Government being taken a further step away from the people on the ground, with one Council for half a million people.”
“Sinn Féin is the one party who are saying the same thing, City and County. Other parties are talking from both sides of their mouths, we saw Micheal Martin arguing for an expansion, and Michael McGrath arguing for a merger.”
“Sinn Féin is the party that is showing a real vision for the future of Cork. It is quite clear that we need two separate Local Authorities, with two separate elected bodies, and two separate executives. An expanded City Council, focused on the development of a vibrant, modern City region, and the retention of a separate and strong County Council, with a strong focus on rural development and industry in the County towns”
“We are also calling for a Cork Strategic Authority above the two Councils, to co-ordinate policy and give ensure balanced regional development with responsibility for Regional Strategic Planning, for developing joint City and County Strategies. We are also calling for a Permanent means of equalisation between the two Councils, in order to ensure that Cork County Council remains financially viable.”
“Finally, we believe that the idea of a Directly Elected Mayor, with Executive Powers should be considered, not removing powers from Cllrs, but from the management, re democratising Local Government”