Lord mayor criticises Smiddy for dismissing expert’s Cork merger review

The lord mayor of Cork has criticised businessman Alf Smiddy for what he described as his “infantile” reaction to an international review which found flaws in his controversial Cork council merger report.

Cllr Des Cahill was speaking yesterday after the Irish Examiner revealed details of the unpublished review, which said the Smiddy-chaired Cork Local Government Review (CLGR) group’s shelved majority report lacked evidence to substantiate its merger recommendation.

Public service reform expert, Prof Tony Bovaird, said the recommendation of the group’s so-called minority report — to retain Cork’s two local authorities, and extend the city boundary — was simply better argued.

The Irish Examiner revealed yesterday how UCC commissioned Prof Bovaird to review the two Smiddy reports published in September 2015.

Prof Bovaird found flaws in the majority merger report and concluded: “I believe the option of separate city and county councils, with a significant extension to the city council boundary, is much better substantiated by the arguments presented in the reports and by the international evidence base.”

However, Mr Smiddy dismissed the review as nothing more than “an academic essay” and “some light desktop research on what it appears as highly dubious, innocuous, and bogus terms of reference”.

“I’m afraid when the terms of reference and intent appear questionable or bogus, then the findings can only be bogus too,” he said.

“It seems to me this is more of a continuation of an ongoing orchestrated saga from certain narrow quarters to frustrate the Government, and delay beyond the 2019 local elections the implementation of the Smiddy Report. That type of obstruction has been the history of local government in Cork for over 50 years; it’s what had held Cork back so much; and we can all see through what’s happening.”

And in a swipe at more than a dozen former lords mayor, Mr Smiddy said: “We had it at the final stages of the independent review when the ‘retired chain brigade’ desperately tried to unsettle and derail the committee from publishing the Smiddy Report, and so many times since. I’m afraid I have to call it out — this is just more of the same — the nonsensical frenzy of politicking, procrastination, and posturing.”

Businessman Alf Smiddy

Mr Cahill hit back last night, describing Mr Smiddy’s reaction as “infantile”.

“It’s a very infantile response to a report done by a person who is considered to be an internationally renowned expert,” said Mr Cahill.

“I was quite surprised at the reaction, but when people say anything negative about Alf Smiddy’s comments, or opinions, he seems to get very upset and take it personally.”

Mr Cahill said the Bovaird findings copper-fasten what supporters of the city boundary argument have believed for several years.

“The international standard is to drive regional economic development from the city out. And that is the ambition of the city council,” he said.

“It would be reckless if Prof Bovaird’s report isn’t considered by the new four-person group as part of their analysis.”

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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