Business groups in war of words over Cork council merger

The debate over the future of Cork’s local authorities has escalated to a war of words between two organisations representing businesses in the city.

Meanwhile Fianna Fail accused the Labour Party of shedding “crocodile tears” over the proposal to merge Cork City and County Councils after Cork South Central TD Ciaran Lynch said that he would vote against any government vote to combine the two.

Yesterday evening Cork Business Association hit back at Cork Chamber of Commerce, after the latter expressed its “disquiet at the unbalanced views put forward by opponents of a unified local authority structure in Cork” since the Cork Local Government Review (CLGR), chaired by Alf Smiddy, published its recommendations.

“It is frustrating from a business perspective that much of the public commentary expressed by adversaries to unification has failed to mention or allude to any of the plethora of benefits associated with unification,” said Chamber President Barrie O’Connell.

“Much of the debate has been centred on a narrow view of power, which is limiting to both citizens and businesses, rather than the incremental power generated through greater capacity and one voice for the Cork region.”

The Cork Business Association, which is against a merger, hit back at the comments.

“Those whose job it is to research these issues opposed it,” said Lawrence Owens.

“It is not for us to comment on the research of another organisation but we do think it rather a pity that Chamber did not avail of the research capacities available in UCC, an institution whose value the Chamber regularly trumpets. Had the Chamber so engaged, it might have come to a different conclusion.”

The Chamber comments also drew the ire of Independent City Councillor Mick Finn.

“So, it is okay to talk up the merger but not against it,” he said.

“There is absolutely no data to show how a merger would deliver these [benefits] any better than a larger urban council and a parallel county council. It is too early to say if the Limerick and Tipp mergers have been a success and to draw any comparisons. I would prefer a decision on Cork’s future to be based on empirical data rather than on aspirational generalities and am surprised the Chamber is happy with the latter.”

Meanwhile Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said “the crocodile tears being shed now by some government TDs will not wash with the public,” after Mr Lynch told RTE that he would vote against any Dáil motion to merge the two councils.

“Minister Alan Kelly needs to step back from implementing this proposed merger,” said Mr Martin.

“But it’s is not good enough for some Government TDs to be crying foul when attacking local government and local democracy has been a key part of the Fine Gael/Labour agenda in Government.  We need a thorough public debate on the Smiddy report.”

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