12,000 farmers want Cork city expansion scrapped

More than 12,000 farmers in Cork want the proposed Mackinnon boundary extension report scrapped and have called for the formation of a single local authority to run the city and county.

12,000 farmers want Cork city expansion scrapped

The call has come from the IFA’s three regional chairmen, who fear if the Mackinnon proposals are implemented they will ruin Cork County Council’s ability to run its services, especially in already disadvantaged rural areas.

The Mackinnon group called for the retention of Cork’s two local authorities in tandem with a significant city boundary expansion to include areas such as Cork Airport, Douglas, Grange, Frankfield, Rochestown, Ballincollig to the west, Tower, Blarney, Monard and Rathpeacon to the north, and Glanmire, Little Island, and Carrigtwohill to the east. If sanctioned, it would increase the city’s population by 100,000 to 225,000.

Harold Kingston, chairman of the IFA’s Cork Central branch, which covers the areas proposed in the extension, described it as a rates grab, citing the fact that the extension goes into the industrial bases of Little Island and Carrigtwohill and encompassed the EMC plant at Ovens.

Mr Kingston said his members are completely opposed to the proposed huge extension which would also see Cork Airport, Ballincollig, Blarney and Glanmire come under the jurisdiction of the city council.

Corney Buckley, the West Cork IFA chairman who farms near Bantry, said some infrastructure in rural areas was already in a shocking state and would only get worse if the county council lost €50m a year in revenue from householders and businesses in the proposed takeover areas.

He said farming represented a significant part of the Cork economy supporting an additional 6,500 jobs in processing and generating annual exports worth €1.6bn.

He said infrastructure was vital to farming, the biggest industry in West Cork, and if this infrastructure decayed even more it would put farmers out of business and lead to another wave of migration from the region.

Mr Kingston said the loss of such revenue to the county council was “completely at odds with the Government’s aim of rural-proofing”.

IFA North Cork chairman Billy Cotter said if adopted the expanded city would see 800 people living in every hectare of land, compared to Dublin’s 4,822.

“It makes no sense at all. It’s totally flawed. Cork will become the most sparsely populated second city in the world. Some of our rural towns would have a bigger population density,” he said.

“The city council spends €479 extra per head on its population than the county council, when it should be the other way around. The county council is more efficient. The city council has roughly 1,600 employees whereas the county council has just over 2,000 yet administers a huge area of 7,500sq km.”

Mr Kingston said the IFA agreed the city boundary should be extended, but not to the scale proposed.

The county council has said it is prepared to cede land it controls in Grange, Frankfield, Douglas and Ballyvolane to the city. Mr Kingston said this and other undeveloped land in the city should suffice for growth.

He maintained rather than weaken one local authority it would be better to amalgamate the two, as suggested in the Smiddy report and said it “was time for reasoned debate” surrounding what has become a very devisive issue.

In recent weeks a war of words has broken out between the Lord Mayor of Cork and the Mayor of County Cork over the boundary extension.

The implementation group is set to meet next week to start work on mapping an exact boundary for the proposed extension.

‘Sabotage’ claims over city boundary poll denied

Cork County Council has rejected claims it tried to “sabotage” a poll on the controversial Cork city boundary extension issue, writes Eoin English.

Against the backdrop of mounting tensions over the boundary issue, The Opinion Line on Cork’s 96FM asked listeners just after 9.20am yesterday to text ‘yes or no’ in favour of the city boundary extension proposed by the Mackinnon group, which would see county areas like Ballincollig, Blarney, Cork Airport, Glanmire and Carrigtwohill transfer to the city.

However, the Irish Examiner has learned that an email was sent from the county council’s communications office just after 10am, on foot of instructions from the council executive, advising staff and councillors of the poll, and supplying text numbers.

In a statement last night, the council said it has been its policy to keep elected members and staff informed of developments in relation to the boundary issue as they occur.

It said a series of internal communications have been issued to staff in recent months, and that it was “entirely appropriate” to make members and staff aware of the radio debate and poll.

“Council members and staff (who live in both the city and the county) were informed of the feature and could choose whether or not they wished to participate,” it said.

“The council did not influence or indeed encourage participation in the poll, or indeed the manner in which people could vote.

“The choice to vote yes, or no, or not vote at all, rested entirely with the elected member or staff member.”

The email, which was sent to the 1,000-plus council staff with an email address, and to 54 of its 55 county councillors with an email address, was too late to influence the poll.

The Opinion Line editor, Deirdre O’Shaughnessy, said 77% of the hundreds of listeners who voted before the poll closed at 10am were against the Mackinnon boundary proposals.

But she said it was clear after 10am that an orchestrated campaign was under way with hundreds more texts flooding in, including 25 ‘no’ votes from the same phone number.

Two former lords mayor accused the county of blatantly trying to influence the results of the radio text poll by emailing its staff and county councillors about it, and supplying the text numbers.

Fianna Fáil city councillor Terry Shannon and his Sinn Féin colleague, Chris O’Leary, branded the move as “outrageous”.

“A nudge is as good as a wink. There is no question that they tried to influence, or sabotage the poll. This is blatant interference,” Mr O’Leary said.

“It’s very clear now that what’s happening in certain satellite towns in terms of a campaign against the boundary extension is being orchestrated at the highest levels in County Hall.”

Mr Shannon said it was clear the council had attempted to skew the poll results.

“It’s an outrageous thing for them to do — but this is symptomatic of how they have been engaging in this entire process since day one.”

The first draft of the city’s extended boundary should emerge next week.

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