The majority of Cork county councillors are in favour of the controversial merger of the city and county councils.
The council debated the establishment of the super authority recommended by the Smiddy report for the first time yesterday, after Sinn Féin councillor Des O’Grady successfully sought the suspension of standing orders.
He said that Sinn Féin had proposed an extended city boundary, that the two councils remain, and that a regional authority oversaw them both.
However, it quickly became apparent Sinn Féin was in a minority position.
“I and my party support a merger. The debate has been very acrimonious, divisive, and very damaging to Cork. I think at this stage the pause button has to be put on. The final say on this should be given to the general public,” said Fianna Fáil councillor Seamus McGrath.
“Let there be a proper, informed debate rather than a them and us situation,”
“I thought we were wholeheartedly supporting this [merger]. If we go back to debate this again we could be looking at a major [city] boundary extension which costs us €78m in lost rates,” Fine Gael’s Kevin Murphy said. “This council couldn’t survive with that. We should support the merger as the best option for us.”
Independent councillor Alan Coleman said he believed the implementation group should be left to do its work. “We should proceed steadily along, not rush into it. The process should be allowed continue. It’s unfortunate that we’ve had a lot of negative comment about this, it isn’t helpful,” he said.
“There should be one authority where we are pulling in the same direction,” Fine Gael councillor John A Collins said. His party colleague, Cllr Noel O’Donovan, said he couldn’t support the Sinn Féin position.
“This [merger] is good for Cork and for the area I represent of West Cork. It’s vitally important this [Smiddy report] doesn’t sit on a shelf and it goes to the implementation group,” he said.
The Government is facing a constitutional challenge over the plan following an historic midnight meeting of the city council. Cork city councillors unanimously voted to move a Section 140 resolution directing council CEO Ann Doherty to seek a judicial review of the actions of the Cork Local Government Review group which published its merger recommendation two weeks ago.
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