Cork City Council to begin legal challenge to merger

Overnight meeting sees city councillors vote unanimously against merging of councils

Lord Mayor of Cork city, Cllr Chris O’Leary has confirmed that the council plans to write to the Taoiseach to confirm that the council is planning a legal challenge to a proposed merger. Photograph: PA

Lord Mayor of Cork city, Cllr Chris O’Leary has confirmed that the council plans to write to the Taoiseach to confirm that the council is planning a legal challenge to a proposed merger. Photograph: PA

 

Cork City Council is to write to Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Tuesday to inform him it is proceeding with a legal challenge against the plan by Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly to merge Cork city and county councils.

Lord Mayor of Cork city, Cllr Chris O’Leary confirmed the council would be writing to Mr Kenny as chair of the Cabinet to inform him of the council’s decision to direct Cork City Chief Executive Ann Doherty to initiate legal action against the government over the move.

Cllr O’Leary was speaking after 29 councillors present at a council meeting in the early hours of Tuesday voted unanimously to support a legal challenge to the proposal by Mr Kelly to proceed with the merger of the two Cork councils as recommended by a Cork Local Government Review Committee.

The Cork LGRC was established last January by Mr Kelly to examine local government reform in Cork city and county. He has welcomed the proposal for a single unitary authority as recommended by the group in its report on September 8th.

The report recommended by three votes to two that Cork City Council and Cork County Council be merged with the city becoming part of a metropolitan Cork division within a greater authority covering both city and county.

Tuesday’s motion, brought under Section 140 of the Local Government Act 2001, was proposed by Fianna Fáil leader on the council, Cllr Sean Martin and seconded by Fianna Fáil whip on the council, Cllr Terry Shannon before each of the party groupings on the council backed the move.

The motion directed Cork City council chief executive, Ann Doherty to seek a judicial review concerning the processes engaged by the Cork LGRC including among other things the committee’s adherence to the principles of natural constitutional justice.

The second part of the motion directed Ms Doherty to challenge the Government’s policy in relation to combining local authority areas in particular, the manner in which this policy impacts on the principle of subsidiarity which is pivotal to the democratic process.

Speaking on the motion, Fianna Fail Cllr Tim Brosnan expressed concern about the manner in which the report had been prepared, and in particular that an extension of time was given to allow Cork Chamber make a second submission which differed from its first submission to the LGRC.

The original deadline for submissions was published in the press but there was no notification published of this extension and the only mention of it was on the review group’s own website and in those circumstances, he believed there was an argument for examining the review process.

Cllr Henry Cremin of Sinn Fein said he feared that the creation of a ‘supercouncil’, formed from the merger of the city and county councils, could not possibly address the differing needs of a rural community such as Knocknagree and also a city community like Knocknaheeny.

Fine Gael Cllr John Buttimer said it was a momentous night for Cork City Council, comparable perhaps to those first city council meetings held after the deaths of the martyred lord mayors Tomas MacCurtain and Terence MacSwiney or after the burning of Cork by the Black and Tans in 1920.

He said that it was unusual to see such agreement among councillors but the message should go out that the council was speaking with one voice on behalf of the city and its people and that a merger would deny the people the right to local self-determination and autonomy.