Merger proposals - Time to make haste slowly

SHOULD Environment Minister Alan Kelly bring proposals to advance the merger of Cork city and county councils to cabinet today, he will exacerbate a difficult and dangerously divided situation. Such a proposal would be premature and a slight to the idea of local democracy or accountability.

Mr Kelly established a five-person group in January to consider the issues around local authorities, city boundaries and the possibility of a single merged authority in Cork. That group decided by the narrowest margin — three to two — to recommend a united authority. That recommendation is numerically valid but it seems something too close to autocracy to proceed with such a very important project when the margin endorsing it is so very narrow.

There is hardly a political or business entity in Cork that is not divided on the issue. Mr Kelly’s party cannot agree on how to proceed and members of Fine Gael are among the most vociferous opponents to a merger. It seems obvious that any merger cannot begin from this point and that far wider consultation is required. That those charged with establishing a single authority for Galway suspended proceedings to allow for deeper consideration adds weight to this view.

It is obvious that current arrangements need to change but that can only happen after far wider consultation. After all, we have held public planning inquiries on far less significant matters. This is a time to take things slowly.

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