Developer says council merger will help Cork challenge Dublin
Published 21/09/2015 | 02:30
One of Ireland's most successful developers, Michael O'Flynn, has backed a single Cork 'super council' as he warned the Cork region has historically failed to act as a counterweight to Dublin.
Mr O'Flynn also expressed "serious concern" over the emotions generated by the recommendation to merge Cork City and County Councils into a single €440m authority.
Cork City Council will hold a special meeting tonight, with councillors set to enforce a Section 140 motion ordering council executives to launch a High Court judicial challenge to the merger.
Cork Chamber of Commerce and Cork Business Association (CBA) have also clashed over the merger proposal, with CBA chief executive Lawrence Owens expressing concern that anyone who disagrees with the merger is being described as "an adversary".
However, Mr O'Flynn warned that logic and common sense rather than emotion should now determine the debate and Cork's local government future.
"This is not about Cork city or Cork county - it should be about the Cork region," he said.
"My concern is that, to date, Cork as a region has failed to be a counterweight to Dublin."
Mr O'Flynn pointed out that in 1979 Cork city set a target of expanding its population from 135,000 to 150,000. However, the population instead shrank to 120,000 by 2015.
"That must change and I believe we now have a golden opportunity to create a single, powerful authority to drive that vital regional development, rather than two competing authorities with sometimes conflicting agendas."
Mr O'Flynn made a detailed submission to the Local Government Review expert group which was chaired by former Beamish and Crawford boss Alf Smiddy.
He expressed concern that while many chose to positively engage with the review process and make submissions, others ignored it but are now getting involved to stir emotions over its proposals.
The developer pointed out that he had worked on projects in both Cork city and county since 1978.
His developments include the EastGate project in Little Island, the Elysian Tower in Cork city centre and the transformation of the former Murphy Barracks site in Ballincollig.
"I believe this is a defining moment, which is in the best interests of the people of Cork," he added.
"The merging of these two authorities is the right decision for our city and county."
However, his plea for a co-operative approach to the issue came as the Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Chris O'Leary, issued an open letter to the city's 120,000 residents in which he described the proposed merger as "an impetuous and reckless act of political vandalism".
He also claimed the merger, in reality, involved the abolition of a city council which traces its history back almost 900 years.