Local Government Minister Eoghan Murphy has been given until Monday to appoint an independent mediator to sort out the row over Cork City’s boundary extension, or face High Court action to prevent it.
The gauntlet has been thrown down by Cork county councillors, who reacted furiously after learning that the chairman of the Implementation Oversight Group, John O’Connor, had been given extra powers which would compel them and their officials to co-operate with formulating his decision, or else face possible imprisonment.
A letter which will be sent to Mr Murphy from Mayor of County Cork, Declan Hurley, says: “This appointment has created a situation whereby if Cork County Council officials and elected members do not cooperate with a process of agreeing a boundary based on the expert advisory group report [Mackinnon] they are liable to criminal prosecution and imprisonment.”
Mr Hurley described that as “an intolerable imposition on the rights of an independent local authority”, and said the council had no alternative but to take legal action in the High Court, including taking “injunctive relief to vindicate its rights”.
The Mackinnon report recommends the extension of the city boundary to cover Cork Airport, Ballincollig, Blarney, Glanmire, Little Island, and Carrigtwohill.
The county council has said it is only willing to cede Frankfield, Grange and Ballyvolane.
Seamus McGrath, Fianna Fáil leader on the council, formally proposed the council deliver the ultimatum.
He described the appointment of Mr O’Connor as an authorised officer as an “unhelpful and provocative step” which ran contrary to any attempt to find an amicable solution to any boundary extension and said railroading through the Mackinnon recommendations would make the county council “unviable”.
Fine Gael councillor Kevin Murphy said that, from the beginning, he believed that the appointment of an independent mediator was the only solution.
Mr Hurley said he was reluctant to send the ultimatum, and “did not make threats easily”.
Meanwhile, the chief executive of Cork City Council said last night that the council is not in a position to respond to the county’s formal boundary alteration request submitted under Section 29 of the Local Government Act.
In a technical response required under the act, Ann Doherty told councillors that the information provided by the county will need “interrogation, testing and validation” which she said can be addressed as part of the Mackinnon implementation process.
Ms Doherty also said the definition of the extent of the city boundary extension will follow from the work of the implementation group.
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