Standing orders were suspended at yesterday’s Cork County Council meeting after Cllr Donal O’Rourke (FF) called for an urgent debate on the boundaries, which come into force at next year’s local elections.
In particular, he expressed concern about the number of councillors representing West Cork being cut from 12 to eight.
Mr O’Rourke said that representation in the region would be reduced even further because of the abolition of town councils.
He said the eight remaining county councillors would now have to cover an area stretching nearly 160km from Courtmacsherry to Dursey Island.
“It will lead to a major distortion in terms of balanced regional development. It’s further evidence of political abandonment and political isolation, and it will lead to social exclusion,” Mr O’Rourke said.
Cllr Alan Coleman, the Fianna Fáil leader on the council, agreed that the people of West Cork were being disenfranchised and criticised boundary changes which see Carrigaline Electoral Area carved up.
Around 30% of voters there will find themselves in the new Kinsale/Bandon Electoral Area. The remaining 70% will go into the Ballincollig Electoral Area.
Bantry-based Cllr Mary Hegarty (FG) said West Cork public representatives also had to cover three peninsulas and seven islands. “We try to be everywhere as it is, but under this (new system) it will be impossible,” she said.
Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG), from Courtmacsherry, said the Boundary Commission had ignored submissions. He said it was ludicrous that West Cork would only be served by eight councillors when it is bigger than several Dáil constituencies.
Goleen-based Cllr Dermot Sheehan (FG) claimed the move was tantamount to “ethnic cleansing” and said Mr Hogan had to do something about it.
Cllr Danny Crowley (FF) said the move flew in the face of government policies for a fairer Ireland.
Meanwhile, Cllr Bart Donegan (FF) said he couldn’t understand why Charleville, Ballyhea, and Newtownshandrum had been moved from the Mallow Electoral Area into the Fermoy Electoral Area.
“It takes the bones of an hour to get to Fermoy from those places. They’d be better off in Limerick as they’re only 25 minutes from Limerick County Hall,” he said.
County manager Martin Riordan said the reorganisation by the Boundary Commission would present serious challenges to council management. “We will have to ensure that people living on the islands or in Metropolitan Cork get the same standard of services from us,” Mr Riordan said.
The council is to write to Mr Hogan urging him to meet a delegation.