An overwhelming majority of Cork’s 22 senators and TDs oppose the recommendations of the Mackinnon report to extend the city’s boundary, writes Sean O’Riordan.
A poll carried out by the Irish Examiner showed 15 were against its full implementation, with just four in favour.
It also shows major splits within parties, with front bench members of Fianna Fáil Michael McGrath and Billy Kelleher going against party leader Micheál Martin in their opposition to the proposals to extend the city council’s control to such areas as Cork Airport, Ballincollig, Blarney, Little Island, Glounthaune, Glanmire and Carrigtwohill.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney refused to state publicly whether he supported or opposed the proposals. Senator Denis O’Donovan said he wouldn’t comment as it would interfere with his independence as leader of the Seanad.
The IFA and the Public Participation Network (PPN), which represents 900 community and voluntary groups in the county, both voiced objections to the scale of the proposed boundary extension.
Rural-based public representatives, across all parties, were particularly against the Mackinnon recommendations to extend the city council’s control.
A number said they were concerned that the county council would relinquish up to €50m a year in income from commercial rates and Local Property Tax and this would have a detrimental impact on its ability to provide a decent level of service, especially in peripheral areas of the county.
While the Mackinnon report recommends the city council pay compensation to the county council for lost revenue, some public representatives believe the city council would be unable to do this and still provide an adequate level of services in the areas earmarked for takeover.
The Mackinnon report recommended compensation be paid by the city council over a 10-year period, to be reviewed after five years.
The county council has maintained compensation should also be paid for projects it has already put significant resources into developing.
It has zoned large tracts of land along the Cork- Midleton railway line in the Carrigtwohill area for new housing, as well as planning a 5,300-house town at Monard, near Blarney.
The county council maintains it will lose a significant amount of LTP revenue from these projects when they come on stream. It also stands to lose a large amount in commercial rates when the fully-serviced site it developed for Amgen near Carrigtwohill is occupied.
The four in favour of the full implementation were Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire (SF), Dara Murphy (FG), Mick Barry (Solidarity) and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. The latter said it was his opinion that an expanded city would be the economic driver for the region into the future and the implementation group should be allowed to get on with its work.
A number of weeks after the Mackinnon report was published, the county council offered to cede Douglas, Grange, Frankfield, and Ballyvolane to the city, stating this extension would provide enough land for future growth. The offer was given short shrift by city councillors, who had their eyes on the bigger prize.
Mr Coveney said he expected the implementation group to meet this week and that they would come back with their recommendations and an exact map of the boundary extension. He said he expected this to be done “quite quickly” as it would be needed in advance of October when the Boundary Commission would look at setting up electoral areas for local elections in 2019.