Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has criticised “scaremongering” over the contentious Cork city boundary extension issue and has urged the two local authorities to “engage constructively” with the group set up to implement it.
“I think there has been too much scaremongering going on in terms of the impact of the extension on other areas,” he said.
“We are all entitled to our particular perspectives but there’s a time to get on with it as well. Some people are getting engaged in this debate as if their entire personal lives are in trouble.
“What is best for the people of the county and city is what counts; long after we leave the scene is what counts. Mackinnon and his committee, in my view, came forward with a reasonable framework and I would call on the two institutions concerned to engage constructively with the implementation group.”
Mr Martin was reacting to Cork County Council’s decision to trigger a formal legal process on its offer to cede certain lands to the city.
The offer, which was outlined last month, was rejected by the city council on the grounds that it does not correspond to the bigger extension proposed by the Mackinnon expert review group.
However, county councillors have formally invoked Section 29 of the Local Government Act which will result in the offer being formally submitted to the city over the coming days for consideration. The process provides for a period of public consultation.
The move was criticised by city councillors on Monday, with Fianna Fáil councillor Tim Brosnan, accusing the county of abusing the process in a bid to stall and frustrate the extension.
Mr Martin said differences of opinion on the issue are inevitable but he said he is in favour of the Mackinnon proposals, which would see areas including Cork Airport, Ballincollig, Blarney, Tower, Glanmire, Little Island, and Carrigtwohill becoming part of the city.
“I believe in local democracy and of having representation close to the people,” he said.
“I was against amalgamation [of the city and county councils, as proposed by the 2015 Smiddy report] from day one. It would have centralised power too much. The county is too big for one authority. I think one county authority to cover the city and county would undermine the city and would also make more peripheral the more peripheral areas.
“Areas in North Cork and West Cork, I think, would have suffered as well, because they would have been very far from the centre There is a lot of academic research, and international peer reviewed research which shows that cities drive regions. UCC commissioned some research underscoring that point.
“A city needs a governance structure that understands the ethos of a city, what makes a city tick and from my perspective, I believe in the extension and I believe the Mackinnon proposals are sensible.
“The industrial landbank of Ringaskiddy is staying with the county, the county will continue to grow, and it will make for a more logical development of the city.”
He said those involved in the ongoing debate should remember that we are all “birds of passage”.
“People need to stand back, and keep this in the back of their heads: we’re all birds of passage here, we may be in positions now but we don’t own the city, we don’t own the county.”
The next meeting of the implementation group set up by Local Government Minister Eoghan Murphy to implement the boundary extension, is due to take place at the end of this month.
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