Legislation is being prepared to extend Cork's city boundary for the first time since 1965, writes .
The Irish Examiner has learned that the Department of Local Government has commenced work on the preparation of legislation to bring Ballincollig, Blarney, Tower, Cork Airport and Glanmire into the city.
The move, which could be complete within six months, will see the city's population almost double - from around 125,000 to just under 210,000 - with the extended boundary accounting for around 70% of the population of Metropolitan Cork.
The legislation will give effect to the compromise boundary extension which emerged on December 6, following talks between representatives of Cork city and county councils overseen by the Implementation Oversight Group (IOG), in a bid to break the deadlock over the larger extension proposed in the Mackinnon report.
When the IOG issued its report to Local Government Minister Eoghan Murphy, he urged both councils to agree on the boundary line, which would allow him use a ministerial order to give effect to the extension.
But he also said he was prepared to legislate in the absence of agreement.
Last Friday, Cork County voted to reject the IOG report and called for further talks with the city on the issue.
However, on Monday, members of Cork City Council voted to support Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald's call on the Minister to bring forward legislation quickly to give effect to a city boundary extension.
Mr Fitzgerald wrote to the Minister on Tuesday, and within 24-hours, the Minister signalled his intent to legislate.
In correspondence seen by this newspaper, the minister said he has indicated to the chair of the IOG, John O'Conor, that in view of "recent indications that agreement on the part of both local authorities in respect of the boundary alteration does not appear likely to be achieved", his department has commenced work on the preparation of legislation.
"I have also confirmed to the chair that the relevant legal provisions will relate solely to implementation of the boundary outlined in the oversight group's report of 6 December 2017," he said.
Minor technical adjustments to the boundary in five small pockets still have to be agreed.
The Minister reiterated the government's request that the elected members and executives of both local authorities "embrace the boundary alteration process as a matter of urgency" and "provide full and active support to the significant programme of works required to implement the changes".
He also acknowledged the work which has been done to date on the process, which he said he believed would result in a "more appropriate local government structure that will serve the people of Cork, both city and county, as effectively as possible in the future".
Former Lord Mayor, Cllr Chris O'Leary, said he believed the Minister has no other option after county councillors "did a compete u-turn" on the agreement mediated by the IOG on December 6 - talks he said the county sought and then signed off on.
"Minister Murphy must do the right thing for the future of Cork by implementing the IOG report now," he said.