Group’s Cork merger support ‘dependent on maintaining city’s status’

The head of an influential business association on the outskirts of Cork said his members still back a merger of the city and county councils, but only if the Government gives cast-iron guarantees about maintaining the city’s status.

Michael Mulcahy, the CEO of the Little Island Business Association, was speaking yesterday after a meeting with the city council to discuss the continuing fallout from the Cork Local Government Review (CLGR) group’s controversial merger report.

The business group represents 673 members employing up to 15,000 people. It includes some of Cork’s largest employers including Lilly, Jansen, Pfizer, Laya, GE Healthcare, and BAM Contractors, and also represents several SMEs. Combined, they generate up to €30m in annual rates for Cork County Council.

The association called for a merger of the city and county councils in its submission to the CLGR group earlier this year.

Yesterday, Mr Mulcahy said that was still their position but he said he will tomorrow brief members on his meeting with city council officials. “Our views are that we favour a merger but not at cost of the city,” he said.

“If the members wish to decide on a different position, that is their decision. It is the views of the members which determines the organisation’s position.

“If they want a change in position, then that will happen. But nobody has suggested that, as of now.”

Lord Mayor Cllr Chris O’Leary
Lord Mayor Cllr Chris O’Leary

Mr Mulcahy said there has been so much commentary on the CLGR issue over the last two weeks, he attended the meeting with city officials to ensure he was as fully briefed as possible.

“Our submission favouring a merger stands but our members are clear that they want to make sure that the city is not downgraded, and that the work Cork City Council has done over the decades isn’t eroded as a result of the merger,” he said.

He also moved to disassociate the association from Fine Gael TD Michael Creed’s description of the city council as a “failed entity”. “We do not believe that Cork City Council is a failed entity in any respect. Those comments are very unhelpful,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lord Mayor Cllr Chris O’Leary has indicated he will not attend face-to-face talks with his county counterpart, Cllr John Paul O’Shea, which had been requested by former CLGR group chairman, Alf Smiddy.

Separately, the mayor has lodged freedom of information requests with Mr Smiddy, the Department of the Environment and the environment minister, seeking access to correspondence associated with the CLGR’s nine-month review process.

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