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Council in legal threat over €440m merger plan


Anger: Cork councillor Terry Shannon

Anger: Cork councillor Terry Shannon

Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Anger: Cork councillor Terry Shannon

A council will go ahead with a legal challenge to a €440m 'super council' merger proposal despite pleas for face-to-face settlement talks.

Cork City Council is set to make history by becoming the first authority to fight in the High Court both the Government and the Department of the Environment for its continued existence.

Councillors indicated the city council will now write to both Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Environment Minister Alan Kelly outlining their fury at what they slated as "a deeply flawed merger plan".

The city council will hold a special meeting next Monday night to outline a judicial review challenge to proposals to merge the historic authority with Cork County Council.

The merger would create a €440m 'super council' and it would be the most powerful local authority in Ireland alongside Dublin City Council.

The threat of High Court action came despite business consultant Alf Smiddy, who chaired the Local Government Review committee which recommended the merger of both councils, pleading for people to consider the long-term best interest of Cork.

Mr Smiddy is also seeking individual briefings with political and business leaders in Cork to explain the report and its proposals.

He stressed it was vital to dispel "misinformed" claims about the study.

Cork's Lord Mayor, Councillor Chris O'Leary, is currently considering the meeting request.

The Smiddy report recommended a unified Cork council on a narrow three-two vote.

Its conclusions have since been challenged by experts from University College Cork.

Leading Cork developers, including Owen O'Callaghan, have warned the merger could drive valuable investment out of the city and county.

City council members have backed a Section 140 motion that aims to launch a High Court judicial review challenge to the process used by the study to recommend the merger.

That challenge is expected to be ratified next Monday.

Two former Lord Mayors of Cork, Cllr Sean Martin and Cllr Terry Shannon, have expressed outrage at the manner in which the city council has been treated.

"This will be a historic fight for Cork," Cllr Shannon said.

"I don't believe any council has ever (taken an injunction) against a sitting Government before.

"But there is cross-party support for this in the city. This is how important we believe the survival of city council is."

"The Black and Tans failed in the 1920s to destroy Cork's local democracy.

"We are not going to allow that to happen now," he added.

Irish Independent