Kilkenny fears loss of city status

 

A campaign is to begin today against a Government plan which, it is claimed, would strip Kilkenny of its status as a city. Kilkenny Chamber of Commerce says the city could lose millions of pounds in inward investment because of a proposal to replace Kilkenny Corporation with a town council.

The chamber will ask corporation members to resign en masse if the plan, part of the Local Government Bill, is implemented. The Government has denied that the Bill has any implications for Kilkenny's status as a city, which emanates from a royal charter granted to the city in 1609.

The Bill would result in Kilkenny being run by a town council while only Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford would have city councils and the right to elect mayors directly. But the distinction between Kilkenny and the five cities identified in the Bill is nothing new in local government terms, according to a spokesman for the Department of the Environment and Local Government.

The five had "county borough" status under existing legislation whereas Kilkenny, in common with Sligo, Clonmel, Drogheda and Wexford, was run by a borough council. The Bill would remove these archaic terms, dating from 1840, from the statute books, he said.

"The Bill specifically provides for royal charters to continue for ceremonial or related purposes. Kilkenny can continue to refer to itself as a city for whatever purpose it likes."

Kilkenny residents are not convinced, however. "It's either a city or it's not, and we have been a city for 400 years," Ms Una Hughes, president of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society, said. "Why should 400 years of history be wiped away?" The Chamber of Commerce campaign would have people's full support.

"Kilkenny people are very placid but they're also very proud of their heritage and they're proud of the fact that Kilkenny is a city. Not only that but it's the only inland city in Ireland. This would be a retrograde step and I don't see the need for it. Everybody in Kilkenny feels the same. Feelings are running very high, not just in the city but in the county as well."

Mr David Fitzgerald, president of Kilkenny Chamber of Commerce, said the plan to develop Waterford as the only city and major growth centre in the south-east would draw investment away from Kilkenny, which was already over-dependent on tourism and services.

"You cannot focus the entire growth on one location. Look at the problems Dublin has; they are the result of concentrating all of the growth in the eastern region on one location," he said.