Local voices that can’t be ignored - Proposed amalgamation

THE Cork Local Government Review Group has, since January, been preparing a report for Environment Minister Alan Kelly about the possibility of merging Cork city and county councils to establish a single authority to manage the region.`

This process has not involved the public, though it should have, especially on so significant and important an issue. The least that could have been expected would have been a series of public hearings, so all of the issues and concerns could be better understood and, if needs be, fears allayed. As it stands, the people of Cork City and county may be offered a pig in a poke and an entirely uncertain future.

That Mr Kelly expressed a clear preference — he strongly advocates amalgamation — before the group even began its work, discredits the process. His inappropriate intervention undermines the independence and integrity of the report process to the point that it may be all but worthless.

That report is expected next month, but this weekend 18 former lords mayor of Cork City have, in an unusual cross-party show of unity, signalled opposition to any amalgamation. That level of opposition, that level of experience, cannot be easily ignored, much less dismissed. It must be hoped that Mr Kelly’s stewardship of Irish Water has taught him lessons that apply in this instance. A blueprint imposed by authorities on high will not work unless it has local support. Grassroots democracy must prevail in this project.

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