Cork council merger group members decline committee invites

Alf Smiddy with Alan Kelly

Two key figures in the body which recommended a merger of Cork city and county councils have declined several invitations to appear before an Oireachtas committee.

Business consultant Alf Smiddy, former chairman of the Cork Local Government Committee and senior counsel John Lucey, who along with former Kerry county manager Tom Curran supported the merger report, have said they are unavailable to appear before the committee on the environment, culture and the Gaeltacht despite being offered five dates in October and November.

They each cited work and travel commitments. Mr Curran, who is understood to be abroad, has not responded to the invitations.

Chair of the Oireachtas committee, Labour TD Michael McCarthy, said it is “outrageous” that anyone would refuse to come before a committee of a national parliament.

Michael McCarthy
Michael McCarthy

“They have authored a significant report on the future of local government in Cork city and county. Then when the opportunity is presented to them to delve into it, they decide for reasons best known to themselves, to refuse to engage,” he said.

“As chairman, I take grievous offence to anyone who refuses to come before a parliamentary committee.”

But Mr Smiddy said he is happy to appear before the committee if a date can be found to suit all five former CLGC members.

The clerk of the Oireachtas committee extended an invitation on September 30 to the five CLGC members Mr Smiddy, Mr Lucey, and Mr Curran, and city boundary extension supporters, Prof Dermot Keogh and Dr Theresa Reidy — to establish availability for an October 6 appearance.

Prof Keogh and Dr Reidy said they were available. Mr Smiddy and Mr Lucey said that date did not suit.

Correspondence seen by the Irish Examiner shows Mr Smiddy cited “other diary and business/travel commitments”. Mr Lucey cited “work commitments”.

The clerk wrote again to the former CLGC members asking them to indicate their availability on any of the following dates — October 20, November 3, 10, 17, and 24.

In further correspondence, Mr Smiddy pointed out the CLGC was disbanded once its report was presented to Environment Minister Alan Kelly in early September.

“During the period of our work because of work and travel commitments from everyone during the week, the committee met on Friday afternoons in Cork between January and the end of August,” he said.

“I also understand that a number of the former committee members are now abroad, and indeed I am away for most of November at this point.”

Mr Lucey said his “professional commitments are booked many months ahead” and he said he has a full diary on Tuesdays with High Court cases in Cork.

He added:

“I mean no discourtesy to the joint committee but my views have been clearly outlined in the report submitted to the minister.”

Mr McCarthy said he still holds out hope that certain individuals will reconsider their positions.

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