Kathleen Lynch: Local authority plan needs more analysis

One of Cork’s most established politicians, minister of state Kathleen Lynch, opposes the merger of Cork’s city and county councils.

The Labour TD has warned that the Government must not rush into the move without further consultation. Ms Lynch, who is a junior minister in the Department of Health, said she had serious reservations about the merger.

“I think that there has to be much wider consultation than there was.

“The (Cork Local Government Review Group) committee that heard everyone — even they could not agree. I think to jump into implementation would be a mistake.”

She is the second senior member of her party to voice opposition to the merger. Her brother-in-law, the chairman of the Oireachtas banking inquiry, Ciaran Lynch, last week accused Environment Minister Alan Kelly of rushing to accept the review group’s findings.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly
Environment Minister Alan Kelly

The group voted three to two in favour of a merger. Mr Lynch later accused the Department of Environment of doing more to reduce the power of local Government “than the British administration ever did in 800 years”.

Meanwhile, Kathleen Lynch said: “The city has to remain at the heart of not just the county, but the commercial activity as well. There has to be something that draws people to the region. If that is not the city, then what is it? In 30 years in public life, the constant cry has been that the city needs to extend its boundaries. The hinterland needs to be taken in. There may have to be a compensation fee paid in relation to that.

“But, definitely, it does need further analysis and we have to listen to people who have studied it more in-depth than any politician over a period of time. There needs to be more consultation and I will be talking to Alan Kelly about that.”

Cork TDs in Labour’s coalition partner, Fine Gael, are largely in favour of the merger. But one notable exception is Jerry Buttimer. The Cork South Central TD has claimed the group report “relegates Cork to a municipal district” and said there was little evidence it would deliver improvements for the people of Cork.

Chairman of the Oireachtas banking inquiry, Ciaran Lynch
Chairman of the Oireachtas banking inquiry, Ciaran Lynch

Business groups in Cork are also divided over the merger. The Cork Business Association (CBA) has said there is nothing in the review group’s report to suggest it means anything other than the dismantling of Cork as the country’s second city, “through the emasculation of its necessary powers”.

“What is in prospect, if this recommendation is accepted by Government, is an incoherent fudge, more bureaucracy and less efficient delivery of services,” it said last week. “What Cork is being asked to do, as a result of this recommendation, is to accept a model of governance that Dublin has rejected, for good reason, because of it is unworkability.”

However, former CBA president Ernest Cantillon has broken ranks with the group. He has welcomed the proposed merger, saying he agreed with an “efficient and effective unitary authority, speaking with one voice, elimination of duplication and the opportunity for devolved services from central government”.

Former CBA president Ernest Cantillon
Former CBA president Ernest Cantillon

Cork Chamber is also in favour of the merger, saying it has confidence in the committee’s recommendation for a “unified authority, with a strong metropolitan division at its core, as the optimal solution for Cork”.

Employers’ body Ibec has said both enterprise and households need reformed local government, which delivers higher quality services and more effectively promotes the development of the wider Cork region.

“The current local government structures are no longer suited for the development of either the metropolitan area or the wider region,” it said in a statement earlier this week.

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