Cork council merger debate rages on

A former mayor of Cork county has accused two leading developers opposed to a merger of the city and county councils of opportunism and scaremongering.

Cork council merger debate rages on

Former Fianna Fáil Cllr Alan Coleman said he has the upmost admiration for John Cleary and Owen O’Callaghan as professional property developers.

"But I feel that their statement to the Irish Examiner objecting to a merger of Cork City and County Council is purely opportunistic," he said last night.

He was reacting to an article in yesterday’s Irish Examiner in which Mr O’Callaghan and Mr Cleary warned against a possible merger of the city and county councils.

The developers, whose projects within the city boundary host over 10,000 jobs and who between them have several multi-million euro city projects in the pipeline, warned that such a recommendation from the Cork Local Government Review Group could cost the city jobs and investment.

The government appointed group, which is examining the case for a council merger or the first extension of the city boundary in 50 years, is due to report to Environment Minister Alan Kelly next month.

There is growing speculation that a merger is the likely outcome.

In a joint statement, the two developers said: “For Cork City to be reduced to a subdivision of Cork County Council, as articulated recently by former county mayor Tim Lombard, it would leave Cork City a long way from having a status as a ‘second city’ which is vital for the marketing of Cork.

“Any decision to reduce Cork City’s capacity to do that through a merging of both local authorities could cause irrevocable damage and ultimately cost investment and jobs.”

However, in a statement last night, Mr Coleman said he felt that the O’Callaghan element of the statement was driven by political pressures by elected representatives within Cork City.

"The statement I feel has used scaremongering tactics to confuse the perception of a possible merger of the two councils," Mr Coleman said.

"Gross generalisations have been utilised in the statement rather than specific facts.

"It is disappointing that a public forum has been exclusively used by such experienced people to voice their view.

"A far more constructive exercise to improve the Cork we live and work in would have been for these professionals to engage with the committee tasked to examine local government in Cork."

Although Mr O’Callaghan did not make an individual submission to the review group, he was involved in the Cork Business Association submission. Mr Cleary did not make a formal submission to the group.

Mr Coleman said he lives in a "green, rural part of the present Cork county boundary" - as do the two developers.

"It is fair to say that our agendas are united that we want to improve Cork," he said.

"I do however have serious issues with divisive public comment by respected business figures who have chosen not to engage constructively in a consultation process which they like all Corkonians were invited to do so."

It is understood that the review group is finalising its report and is on course to present its findings to Minister Kelly by next month’s deadline.

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