Wednesday 17 January 2018

€440m plan for council merger has divided Cork

Alf Smiddy
Alf Smiddy
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

The controversial merger of two Cork authorities to create a €440m 'super council' could be delayed for years amid the threat of political and legal rows.

The revelation came as former Beamish & Crawford boss, Alf Smiddy, who chaired a report which recommended the merger of Cork City and County Councils, is to stage special meetings with all senior Cork executives in a bid to address what he said were "quite misinformed" reports on the proposal.

Mr Smiddy said it was vital that all stakeholders address what is best for Cork's future.

But the 'super council' proposal has caused a major rift within both Cork political and business circles.

"Over the next few weeks, I will facilitate a number of key meetings for the sole purpose of creating open and honest dialogue between everyone," Mr Smiddy said.

"In particular, this is to ensure that the relevant people fully understand and have that deep knowledge and insight of local government arrangements that covers the entire Cork region and not just a very narrow city or county perspective."

One Cork business leader, Ernest Cantillon, a former President of the Cork Business Association, said he disagreed with the CBA's stance on the proposed merger.

"In terms of tourism, the city and county is totally fragmented and there are so many vested interests and bureaucracy between the councils that we all just give up. The wasted potential is heartbreaking," he said.

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin officials admitted that the creation of a unified authority would prove "a tortuous process" because of local opposition.

Cork City Council members - led by 18 former lord mayors of Cork - oppose the plan as little more than a "dressed-up Cork County Council takeover".

Business groups are divided over the proposal, with Cork Chamber of Commerce and Cork Business Association members taking varying stands on the issue of the Smiddy report.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly has acknowledged that a final decision "is a long way off".

Cork City Council members last night directed its chief executive to seek a judicial review of the proposed merger.

Irish Independent

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