He has come under attack from Fianna Fáil opponents of a boundary extension, who accuse him of dodging a decision, but was praised by the Fine Gael Mayor of Limerick, who is leading the campaign for an extension.
The minister has called on the three managers in Limerick city, county and Clare to discuss the situation.
If agreement can’t be reached he will appoint a boundary commission.
Political sources said yesterday the appointment of a boundary commission would put a very divisive issue ‘to bed’ during the run up to the 2007 general election in three constituencies - Limerick East, Clare and Limerick West.
Mayor of Limerick Diarmuid Scully said: “It is clear that the minister recognises Limerick city’s unique role as the economic driver of the mid-West and that he also recognises that the current arrangements need to be changed for the good of the region.”
The minister has set out four possible avenues of approach:
* Increased voluntary co-operation between the three councils.
* Formal co-operation/service provision across the three councils.
* Changes to the boundary between Limerick city and Limerick county.
* A novel institutional arrangement for the entire metropolitan area (a greater city council).
Mr Scully said: “It is clear from the minister that the boundary between Limerick city and Co Clare will not be changed because of the attachment of the people in the area affected to their county.”
Mr Scully said this represents a triumph of emotion over reason.
He said: “The status quo is not an option. Change is going to happen, and that can only be good for all the people of Limerick city and county.”
Co Clare councillor Cathal Crowe, FF, who is leading the opposition to a boundary of Limerick city in parts of Clare, such as Westbury, Shannon Banks and Parteen, accused the minister of kicking to touch. He said there is still a fear that parts of Clare could be sucked into a greater Limerick council.
Mr Crowe said the elected representatives in Clare had unanimously voted to reject having any talks with Limerick City Council.
Mr Crowe said: “Now the minister is going to officialdom, the three managers, and I am not happy about this. The councillors must have the final say and the manager is not mandated by Clare councillors to have any truck with Limerick city.”
Councillor Niall Collins, a FF general election candidate in West Limerick, attacked the minister’s response.
Mr Collins said: “Handing the decision on a boundary extension to a commission is an abdication of his responsibility. I am calling on the minister to make the decision on the boundary.”