Labour split on Cork councils merger plan over minister’s ‘premature’ backing

A split has emerged in Labour over the proposal to merge Cork city and county councils, with a TD accusing Environment Minister Alan Kelly of rushing to accept the findings.

Cork South Central’s Ciarán Lynch, chairman of the Oireachtas banking inquiry, also said the local government review was hijacked by the minister’s department.

Mr Lynch urged his party colleague to go back to the drawing board. “I believe the minister was premature in his endorsement of the report,”he said.

“He should have taken more time to consider its findings and more time to consider the views reflected in the minority report. The minister seriously needs to take a whole re-examination of this process. The advancement of the majority report would be detrimental to the Cork City region and the country as a whole.”

The Cork Local Government Review group (CLGC), chaired by Alf Smiddy, was split three to two over its merger recommendation, published last week.

UCC academics Dr Theresa Reidy and Prof Dermot Keogh published a minority report favouring a city boundary extension.

Labour split on Cork councils merger plan over minister’s ‘premature’ backing

Ciarán Lynch

Mr Lynch has published the findings of his own survey of his constituents who would be affected by a merger or city boundary extension.

It is the clearest indication yet of the popular mood on this contentious issue. Of the 244 people who responded in August, 71% said they considered the area they live in to be effectively part of Cork City, with the overwhelming majority of 77% supporting a boundary extension.

Given the choice of a merger or boundary extension, almost 60% said they favoured a boundary extension.

A majority of 87.7% said they were aware of the boundary issue, while 94.3% said they were well informed about the work being undertaken by the CLGC.

“The strongest message from this survey is while that it was carried out before publication of the minority report, it not just concurs with the views of the minority report, it actually endorses them,” Mr Lynch said.

Labour split on Cork councils merger plan over minister’s ‘premature’ backing

Alan Kelly

He urged Mr Kelly to take more time to consider the views of the range of experts opposed to the move, which he said was far more evidential based. And he said he was concerned the review group suffered from “mission drift” and had not engaged in wide enough public consultation.

“The main findings of their report are both wrong and will prove in time to be highly unpopular,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cork City Council, which is preparing to mount a High Court challenge to the merger plan, has written to the Taoiseach asking him to halt the implementation of any proposed merger pending the outcome of the legal case.

It is understood that Lord Mayor Cllr Chris O’Leary wrote to the Taoiseach yesterday outlining the council’s intention to trigger the legal action following a special meeting of council next Monday night.

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