Cork South-Central TD and Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin has said there are serious flaws with the argument put forward in the Smiddy Report published today which recommends merging Cork City and Cork County Council.
Deputy Martin has said the status of Cork City would be undermined if the report’s recommendations are implemented and the entire region would ultimately lose out.
Deputy Martin commented: “Merging the Cork City and County Council into one authority and creating three divisions within a large structure is the wrong call for Cork. Under the proposal, which does not have the support of the full 5-member panel, there would be a Cork Metropolitan Division, a Cork North and East Municipal Division and a Cork West and South Municipal Division, all under a new super authority structure. This is simply unworkable and will hamper Cork’s ability to attract investment and employment.
“The status of Cork city is central to the future development of the region and this report would effectively downgrade the city and make it a sub-division of large entity.
“I agree wholeheartedly with the conclusion in the minority report of Professor Dermot Keogh and Dr. Theresa Reidy who say that “Cork city needs an independent and autonomous future. It is the second city in the state and it should be empowered to grow and develop in that spirit.” Their report rightly points out that “Cities drive regions” and I genuinely believe that the south-west region will suffer hugely if a strong independent Cork city is not driving investment, promotion and job creation.
“I believe there should be an expansion to the city boundaries. The report in favour of merging the authorities argues that it “would help give Cork greater capacity to compete internationally” but I think the opposite will be the reality. If the status of Cork city is not retained I think its ability to market itself from an educational, cultural, investment rich environment will be severely disadvantaged.
“Cork has experienced significant growth. The Cork Area Strategic Plan, building on the success of the LUTS, is proof that Cork’s two local authorities work well together. There is always scope for greater co-operation but I think it will be important for towns across County Cork for it to retain its own strong, independent voice in the form of the County Council structure. Many towns have already lost local democratic councils and more centralised power would further isolate many communities from decision making.
“The arguments that led to amalgamation in Limerick and Waterford simply don’t apply in the case of Cork city or county. Under a revised boundary arrangement, as cited by Prof. Keogh and Dr. Reidy, Cork City Council would become one of the largest local authorities in the country with a projection population of 230,000 and Cork County Council would be in the top five in the country in terms of size, supporting a population of 290,000. The City and the County are clearly large enough to maintain their own governance structures into the future.
“I am urging Minister Alan Kelly not to proceed with the recommendations in the Smiddy Report. There needs to be a thorough debate about the next steps forward for Cork’s local government structure and the case is far from closed following today’s report. While accepting that the status quo is not sustainable the detailed concerns put forward by Prof. Keogh and Dr. Reidy cannot be ignored and the Government should not proceed based on the Smiddy recommendations.”