Smiddy Urges Unity As Land War Continues, As City And County Mayors Face Off

By Seamus Whelehan

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While TD’s and Ministers enjoy their summer break the government has been accused of turning its back on the people of Cork.
As City and County Councillors square up to each other in a row over the redrawing of boundaries, Alf Smiddy who previously chaired a committee that recommended a merger of city and county says the regions potential is being ignored.
“Dublin as a city and region is blazing a trail and my fear is that Cork City and region will be squeezed out, and will not get on the fast lane. I believe our voice is diluted and fragmented on the international stage.”
By implementing the McKinnon report it would set Cork back 50 years “in terms of social and economic development including the wellbeing and prosperity of our citizens.”
Given the current regional order and ongoing conflicts the County’s TDs and Government Ministers are best placed to play a positive role in the county’s future, he said.
For the most part they remain silent and let Dublin drive a “reverse takeover of the county by the much smaller, fragile and weaker City Council, one fifth the Cork population” commented Mr Smiddy.
He said a unity council as set out in the Smiddy Report is the only way forward, by creating a unified authority it provides the possibility of correcting the errors of the past.
Cork City’s population shrunk following a boundary change in the late 1950s as the County concentrated on developing satellite towns located somewhat near the new City.
Mr Smiddy has also criticised the Government for its plan to back a list of infrastructural projects around the country, yet have failed to approve the Cork Limerick motorway.
By failing to invest in our regional infrastructure he says the County as a whole is falling behind.
“Tourism is up 12% nationally but Cork is suffering; foreign direct investment is performing well in Dublin” yet Cork is being ignored.
“Limerick city is powering ahead under the amalgamated local government structures, and Waterford city has developed a new confidence and its heart is beating very strongly again and becoming a big voice for the region.”
The Government established, Cork Local Government Oversight group tasked with reviewing the boundary change are expected to deliver their draft recommendations later this month.
Lord Mayor of Cork City, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald says a boundary extension as prescribed in the McKinnon report is necessary for future economic growth.
The Fianna Fail Cllr has accused the County of “attempts to whip up unnecessary fear in communities.”
While County Mayor Declan Hurley said if implemented the McKinnon report will have a devastating effect on rural communities.
The large rates base Cork County has built up over the years would be taken and also the household tax.
Those living in communities of Blarney, Ballincollig, Glanmire and Carrigtwohill under McKinnon would also be added to the City’s housing list
“Existing city housing applicants will now be pitted against County housing applicants for social housing in these areas. All this will delay the timely provision of much needed housing for young families” commented the County Mayor.
Under the McKinnon report it’s recommended that the City Council would pay the County €40million per annum over a ten year period to compensate for the loss of Rates revenue and local property tax.
If implemented McKinnon would wipe out an estimated 65% of the County’s rate base overnight representing almost €80million in loss of revenue.
Mr Smiddy argues that “these financial and other systems and resource implications have been glossed over by proponents of an enlarged stand-alone City authority.”
There is also a fear of up to 400 job losses across the County Council as services are migrated to City Hall.
He said the only way forward is a Cork regional plebiscite, first called by Cork City.

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