Cork City Council to seek legal advice on review group’s actions over council merger

Cork City Council is to seek a judicial review of the administrative actions of the review group which has recommended a merger of the city and county councils.

The city is also expected to become the first local authority to challenge the constitutionality of government policy in relation to combining local authority areas.

The legal challenge was sanctioned at a council meeting last night attended by several former lords mayor, members of the Cork Business Association, and property developer Owen O’Callaghan.

It came as the local government review group in Galway published a “deliberation report” to facilitate wider public consultation before publishing its final recommendations.

The Cork Local Government Review (CLGR) did not publish a mid-review report.

Prof Eoin O’Sullivan, chair of the Galway review, said the committee members felt it wold be useful and helpful at this stage of their review to publish a 56-page “multi-criteria analysis” of the almost 40 submissions they have received to date.

“We took it upon ourselves to do this,” Prof O’Sullivan said. “We put out an initial call for submissions and we got about 40 but we had been hoping for a bit more engagement with stakeholders.

“We thought it would be useful at this stage to publish the document to engender debate, to widen the debate, and to have a more informed debate. This is a way, we hope, of prompting further submissions.”

Cork City Council to seek legal advice on review group’s actions over council merger

The CLGR, which was chaired by business consultant Alf Smiddy, presented its final report and recommendations to Environment Minister Alan Kelly last week.

Its key merger recommendation split the five-person group three to two and has sparked controversy and criticism.

CLRG member Theresa Reidy, who, with Dermot Keogh, co-authored a minority report opposing a merger and recommending a city boundary extension, delivered a devastating critique of the merger report last night.

In her first public comment on the report, she told city councillors it was clear to her and Prof Keogh that a merger would not be good for the city.

Cities are engines of regional growth and must have independent autonomous governance to drive economic development, said Dr Reidy.

A merger could result in a loss of focus on policies and services in both city and county areas, and loss of vital funding for the city, she warned.

She said the culture of short-termism and localism in Irish politics could, under a merger scenario, see rural councillors outvote those in urban areas for funding.

Lord Mayor Chris O’Leary said the process in Galway stands in stark contrast to the process undertaken in Cork.

Following a two-hour debate, councillors moved a section 140 instructing chief executive Ann Doherty to seek a judicial review of the CLGR group’s administrative actions.

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