Cork’s Simon Coveney refuses to comment on council merger plans

Cork’s most senior government minister has refused to say whether he favours a merger of the region’s two local authorities or a city boundary extension.

Simon Coveney, the agriculture, defence, food, and marine minister, said he would prefer to let the Cork Local Government Review (CLGR) group complete its work without being influenced by the publicly expressed views of politicians.

“Some politicians have lobbied publicly on this review,” he said.

Cork’s Simon Coveney refuses to comment on council merger plans

Cork City Hall

“As one of the senior government ministers in the city, I don’t think it would be helpful to the process to make my views public, to come out on one side or the other on this debate.

“This is an independent group appointed by the Government to do a job and I don’t think politicians should try to influence their views in public. I would prefer to give those in the group space to make their decision.”

Cork’s Simon Coveney refuses to comment on council merger plans

Cork County Hall

Mr Coveney, who has met with the CLGR in private, was speaking as it emerged the group is split 3-2 on its likely recommendation to merge the city and county councils.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly had tasked a five-person group to review local government structures in Cork and to examine the case for the city’s first boundary extension in 50 years, or a possible merger.

Cork’s Simon Coveney refuses to comment on council merger plans

Alan Kelly

Last month, 18 former lords mayor signed a letter opposing a possible merger. Last week, two of the city’s leading developers — Owen O’Callaghan and John Cleary, whose city developments host some 10,000 jobs — also came out against a possible merger, warning such a move could cost jobs and investment.

It emerged over the weekend the CLGR is split over a likely merger recommendation, understood to be the favoured option of Tom Curran, John Lucey, and review group chair Alf Smiddy.

UCC academics Theresa Reidy and historian Dermot Keogh, are understood to be vehemently opposed. Both have declined to comment before the CLGR issues its report this month.

The Irish Examiner has established they have prepared a detailed 40-page “minority report” opposing a merger. Sources described their document as a “lengthy and extremely robust dissenting report” which goes on to argue the case for a city boundary extension.

Mr Smiddy, meanwhile, said work on the review was not yet complete but when it was, it will be a “highly professional, comprehensive, and well-considered report with firm recommendations that will serve the best interests of Cork”.

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