Cork council defies minister’s request to postpone opening of housing project

The environment minister was accused last night of engaging in “stroke and gutter politics” for asking a local authority to postpone the official opening of a multimillion-euro social housing project in Cork City until he was able to attend.

Cork council defies minister’s request to postpone opening of housing project

And it has also emerged that Alan Kelly’s department has emailed the chief executives of all local authorities requesting more advance notice about the opening of all social housing projects.

Fianna Fáil councillor Seán Martin, who raised the issue at last night’s meeting of Cork City Council, described the moves as “gutter politics”.

Party colleague Terry Shannon accused the Labour Party of attempting to use public funds to secure their own re-election by attending the official openings for photo opportunities.

“This was a political stroke.”

But a spokesman for the minister strongly rejected the criticism. “It is customary practice that when projects are wholly or partly funded by the department of environment, that the dates of official openings are agreed and confirmed with the department. This didn’t happen in this case.”

The minister had been invited to attend the official opening on Friday of phase two of the government-funded multi-million euro Glen regeneration housing project on the northside of Cork City.

It is understood the opening may have been brought forward to coincide with the last day of Mary Shields’ mayoralty.

However, councillors were told last night the minister’s office “requested” that the opening be postponed because the minister wasn’t available to attend.

“When a minister requests you to do something, he’s actually telling you to do it,” Mr Martin said. “I felt this was a gross intrusion into the independence of the city council — a gross invasion of the democratic process.

“Ministers of all parties are at all times welcome to Cork City. But the idea that a minister, because he can’t make an event, can then request city management or the lord mayor not to go ahead until he’s available, is just not good enough.

“Cork City Council is an independent legal entity and has the right to makes its own decisions. So it’s important that we stretch our muscles and that we won’t be bullied by any minister of any party of any government. All the political parties here tonight, are of the one voice — do not tell the lord mayor of Cork City what to do.”

Councillors agreed to proceed with Friday’s ceremony without the minister, and to write to all local authorities informing them of their decision.

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