Mayor of County Cork issues plea on legal action over merger

Cork city and county should work in spirit of co-operation, says Cllr John Paul O’Shea

The Mayor of Cork County has written to his counterpart in Cork city asking that Cork City Council to hold off on taking legal action against the proposed merger of the two councils into a single authority.

Cllr John Paul O'Shea wrote to Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Chris O'Leary after Cork City Council agreed to seek legal advice on taking a judicial review of the process by which the Cork Local Government Review Group reached a recommendation for one merged authority.

Cork City Council agreed unanimously at its meeting on September 14th to ask Cork City Council chief executive Ann Doherty to obtain legal advice on seeking a judicial review of the local government review process.

The councillors also asked Ms Doherty to get legal advice on taking a constitutional challenge to the Government’s policy on abolishing and merging local authorities and Ms Doherty is due to report on both matters to councillors in committee this evening.

Members of Cork City Council have to wait seven days before calling a special meeting under section 140 of the Local Government Act 2001 and are due to hold meeting at a minute past midnight on Monday night to consider Ms Doherty’s report on the legal advice.

However Cllr O’Shea has this afternoon written to his city counterpart Cllr O’Leary to hold off on going down the legal route and to instead look at how both authorities might work together in a spirit of co-operation.

“I understand that the city council will later this evening consider whether it will take a judicial review of the process associated with the Cork Local Government review and take a challenge to the constitutionality of Government policy on the merger of local authorities.

“I have asked the Lord Mayor to ask the city councillors to give co-operation a chance before opting for these measures – I am seriously concerned that any other position to be adopted by the city council will be detrimental to Cork in that we will be left with the status quo.”

“I am also satisfied that by continuing the strong sense of co-operation that currently exists between the two councils we can and will build a better Cork for all the people who live and work here, said Cllr O’Shea.

Single authority

He also acknowledged that the recommendation for a merged single authority was a majority one backed by three of the five-person review team chaired by former Beamish & Crawford managing director Alf Smiddy and that two review members opted for a city boundary extension.

However he said he believed the points raised by academics Prof Dermot Keogh and Dr Theresa Reidy in their minority report were dealt with comprehensively within the body of the majority report prepared by Mr Smiddy.

Cllr O’Shea said that under a merged authority, Cork City would be expanded to cover Metropolitan Cork and its jurisdiction will be extended over planning policy and economic policy for the division.

“With the exception of the making of the overall development plan for the entire area of Cork and adopting the budget, the Metropolitan Division should in essence retain practically all of the reserved functions currently performed by the City Council and over a wider area.”

Cllr O’Shea also said that elected members for the Metropolitan Cork division will have access to the entirety of new income particularly from rates income from new developments not just in the existing City Council area but from across all the metropolitan division.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times