Cork Council Merger: Two main business groups at odds over proposals

Environment Minister Alan Kelly speaking to the media after thelaunch of the Cork Local Government Committee Report.

Cork’s two main business organisations are split over proposals to create a super authority to cover both city and county.

Cork Chamber, which represents 1,100 business — the majority of which are in the county — has backed the proposed merger, but Cork Business Association (CBA) is firmly against it.

Cork Chamber president Barrie O’Connell said he welcomed the report by the Smiddy Committee to merge the two local authorities.

“The overarching recommendation to create a unified local authority structure in Cork, with a strong metropolitan division at its core will provide Cork with the winning formula to speak with one strong voice and will ensure that our remarkable region remains centre-stage,” Mr O’Connell said.

He said the chamber strongly endorses the committee’s recommendation to establish a strong metropolitan division at the core of the unified authority, as the optimal solution for Cork.

“An expanded Metropolitan area will be the key driver of economic growth into the future, which will maximise the benefits for all. In particular, the proposal to introduce a specific and enhanced economic development portfolio is also a very positive step,” Mr O’Connell said.

“We now need to seize this opportunity to innovate for Cork, take the necessary risks and transform 21st century local government within our exceptional region in the months and years ahead.”

However, CBA — which represent 200 businesses in the city, including the major retailers — was against the move.

CBA chief executive Lawrence Owens said the recommendation confirms their members’ worst fears.

“There is nothing in the report to suggest that it means anything other than the dismantling of Cork as the country’s second city through the emasculation of its necessary powers. What is in prospect if this recommendation is accepted by Government, is an incoherent fudge, more bureaucracy and less efficient delivery of services,” Mr Owens said.

He claimed that from a national point of view, Ireland will no longer have a second city, as most people would reasonably understand the term, a city with its own powers and discretion to function properly.

“What Cork is being asked to do as a result of this recommendation is to accept a model of governance that Dublin has rejected, for good reason, because of its unworkability,” Mr Owens said.

Little Island Business Association chief executive Michael Mulcahy said his members support the merger.

“We believe there is a very bright future ahead for Cork with its ability to market itself as a region with exceptional resources in its city and county and with a focus on being a region of international interest to many who believe in a one voice and one strategy approach,” Mr Mulcahy said.

O’Flynn Construction’s Michael O’Flynn has described the proposal to merge the local authorities “as a defining moment”.

He said it would be good for business, which is absolutely essential to economic development and prosperity in the region.

Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) president Dr Brendan Murphy said the merger “would maximise the resources, capabilities, and advantages of the region”.

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