Cork Council Merger: City councillors vow to ‘fight this tooth and nail’

Alf Smiddy, chairman of the Cork Local Government Committee,left, and Environment Minister Alan Kelly. Pictures: Denis Minihane

“The city councillors will fight this tooth and nail,” whispered one of Cork’s longest-serving county councillors as Minister Alan Kelly unveiled the merger plan.

Minutes after Mr Kelly finished his speech, Cork’s Lord Mayor, Sinn Féin councillor Chris O’Leary, confirmed Fine Gael councillor Michael Hegarty’s fears.

Mr Hegarty, who served on the county council for 31 years, felt a merger was the right decision and the vast majority of his 54 colleagues in the county agree.

However, Mr O’Leary was having none of it. “It defies belief that as a nation we consistently fail to learn from the experience of other countries, and by not extending the city boundary, redressing current imbalances, and placing it at the heart of driving the region, that is exactly what this committee [who compiled the report] has done.”

He pointed out that two of the report’s five contributors had disagreed with its findings and that 18 former lord mayors of the city had stated they were totally against the creation of a super authority.

Cork Council Merger: City councillors vow to ‘fight this tooth and nail’

From left: Cork City Council CEO Ann Doherty; Cork County mayor John Paul O’Shea; Cork County Council CEO Tim Lucey; and Cork lord mayor Chris O’Leary at the Cork Local Government Committee Report launch at the Clayton Hotel Silver Springs.

His counterpart, Mayor of County Cork, Independent councillor John Paul O’Shea said a unified authority would contribute to the creation of jobs and tourism as well as streamlining the delivery of local services and infrastructure.

“I believe Cork now has the opportunity to bring what’s best in the councils together so that the people continue to ensure we have the very best in Cork, have an efficient and effective local authority that works to attract foreign direct investment, tourism and job creation,” Mr O’Shea said.

He has called a behind- closed-doors meeting of his councillors for this morning where they will be briefed on the report.

He won’t have it all his own way, as the 10 Sinn Féin representatives on the county council are, like Mr O’Leary, opposed to the move.

County council Sinn Féin whip councillor Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire urged TDs to vote against recommendation if it becomes legislation.

Cork Council Merger: City councillors vow to ‘fight this tooth and nail’

Dr Brendan Murphy, president of Cork Institute of Technology, left, and Barrie O’Connell, president, Cork Chamber.

“There has been separate local government structures in Cork City for hundreds of years. It now appears as if that will be cast aside with the stroke of a pen,” said Mr Ó Laoghaire.

City-based Socialist councillor Mick Barry claimed the merger will facilitate privatisation, outsourcing of council services and cutbacks.

Former county mayor and Fianna Fáil councillor Alan Coleman said: “Joining of forces will save money as seen in the Tipperary amalgamation which has yielded savings of €3m in just 10 months.

“With this merger, West Cork can benefit hugely. There will be cost savings from synergies which can be reinvested in frontline services and improving infrastructure and roads in our region,” Mr Coleman said.

Labour senator John Gilroy said the new authority would create the conditions for Cork to act as a counterweight to the Dublin and the east coast region in terms of attracting investment and employment opportunities.

“This is badly needed because up until now, we have seen the vast majority of investment being channelled into the Dublin-Drogheda-Belfast axis,” he said.

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