Cork’s city councillors are poised to rule out further talks on the contentious city boundary extension after county councillors rejected the compromise deal, writes Eoin English.
They are expected to formally vote at a special meeting tonight to endorse the final report of the implementation oversight group (IOG), which recommends that Ballincollig, Blarney, Tower, Glanmire, and Cork Airport become part of an expanded city, and which was accepted by Cabinet last week.
However, Sinn Féin councillor and former lord mayor Chris O’Leary said that, following the county’s decision to reject the compromise extension, the time has come for the full Mackinnon boundary extension to be implemented.
Last week, Local Government Minister Eoghan Murphy signed off on the IOG and called on both councils to reach agreement on the compromise that would allow him to use a ministerial order, rather than legislation, to give effect to the extension. During a lengthy debate on the IOG in County Hall on Friday, some of which was held in private, councillors rejected it.
They voted 28-5 in support of a Fianna Fáil proposal to return to the county’s September offer, made under section 29 of the Local Government Act and previously rejected by the city, to cede a much smaller area of land immediately adjacent to the city boundary in areas including Grange, Frankfield, Ballyvolane, and Douglas, but excluding Ballincollig, Blarney, and Tower.
Sinn Féin is the only party to support the IOG report in both councils.
County officials said they will now explore various legal options arising out of Friday’s vote. County Mayor and Independent councillor Declan Hurley led calls for further talks with the city on the issue.
In a later statement, he said county councillors had “noted” that the Cabinet had approved the IOG report and the minister’s statement about using statutory procedures if both councils agreed.
“I welcome the minister’s comments. I think they are very helpful in the context of bringing the matter to a successful conclusion,” said Mr Hurley.
“There are still concerns in relation to certain aspects of the proposed changes and, on foot of this, I, as County Mayor, will be making immediate contact, through my office, with the Lord Mayor’s office in order to seek an urgent engagement to conclude agreement between the political bodies of both councils at the earliest possible opportunity.
“This is a real opportunity for the political bodies across the two councils to work together in a meaningful and constructive manner to resolve outstanding issues over the coming weeks.
“I am confident that the councils will be in a position to bring an agreed boundary proposal to the minister shortly. It is clear that this is the minister’s wish — to try and secure as much agreement as possible at a local level in Cork.
“It also represents, in my view, as being the best approach, and it will help to ease the path towards successful implementation.”
A spokesman for City Hall pointed out that the IOG report has already been approved by the Government and it is not open to the city council to revisit the government’s decision.
“The only matter at issue is agreement of the mechanism for Government to implement the extension — ministerial order or primary legislation,” he said.
Lord Mayor and Fianna Fáil councillor Tony Fitzgerald has indicated that he will recommend to city councillors tonight that they agree to the minister’s request for agreement on the IOG.
The last boundary extension was in 1965. Although smaller that the proposed Mackinnon extension, the IOG compromise boundary would increase the city’s population from around 125,000, according to the 2016 Census, to just below 210,000, to include almost 70% of the population of the Metropolitan Cork region.
This story originally appeared in theIrish Examiner.