Local Government Minister Phil Hogan will next week be urged to review a proposed cut to the number of county councillors representing West Cork.
Labour TD Michael McCarthy, chairman of the Oireachtas environment committee, which will next week examine changes introduced by the Boundary Commission, said committee members will meet on Dec 3 to discuss the legislation. He told the Irish Examiner there is a case for Mr Hogan to take another look “specifically at the geographic expanse of the West Cork region”.
“It’s a massive area to expect eight people to represent,” said the Dunmanway-based TD.
Mr McCarthy has been a member of the local authority from 1999-2003.
Currently, there are 12 county councillors representing the region, but the Boundary Commission has proposed that that be reduced to eight by next June’s local elections.
There are also 27 town councillors in Skibbereen, Bantry, and Clonakilty, but their positions will also be abolished next summer.
The proposals have caused uproar, because it is felt that West Cork will lose out on funding because it will not have the political clout it once enjoyed.
This is compounded by the fact that the number of councillors sitting in County Hall next summer will be increased from 49 to 55. The vast majority will be from the Greater Cork area, and councillors in West Cork believe their region will get a smaller slice of the financial cake as a result of this power shift.
“As a voting block of eight members out of 55, we will be absolutely powerless,” said Fianna Fáil councillor Donal O’Rourke. “This will accentuate the increased economic isolation of our region. The whole thing is quite unsatisfactory.”
Fine Gael councillor Noel O’Donovan said the proposed reduction in county councillors “had left the people of West Cork in fear and shock”.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil councillor Pat Murphy outlined just how much of a task eight elected representatives would have covering the region.
“It would mean there were 7,100 people for every elected councillor,” said Mr Murphy. “In Cork City it is half that number. You could cycle from one side of the city to the other. But it could take more than three hours for a councillor to drive from one part of his West Cork constituency to the other.”
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