Public opinion should be considered for Cork’s local government reform

CORK based Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, has debated the need for clarity regarding local government reform in Cork, calling for a referendum to provide direction on the issue.

Senator Tim Lombard has said: “The issue of local government has been hampering Cork city and county since the 60’s. A county that is geographically 1/8th of the country with vast growth potential and large urban and rural areas will require a clear plan for future development.

Projected population increases for Ireland have prompted the Government to create a national strategy, the National Planning Framework Ireland 2040, which has meticulous plans and proposals for developing infrastructure and economy etc. as to keep ahead of the envisioned needs of a growing populace.

Creation and implementation of such a plan is dependent on local government structures. As the second main city and largest county, it is critical that we have an immediate and comprehensive focus for Cork’s local government that will enable sustained growth within this framework.

There have been a number of reports completed on local government reform in Cork, all of which have proposed various solutions to the initiative. It is at this time unclear as to how the Government intends to proceed; will the city boundary increase, will the local authorities merge into one all-encompassing council… One thing is certain, the current status quo cannot continue.

Whilst the academics and officials have submitted their perspectives on the matter, there is one voice noticeably missing; that of the public. Financial and political implications have therefore been explored, but the identity of the people has not.

We people of Cork are proud and patriotic, and an interest in politics runs deep throughout our history and culture. The identity of our diverse population must be protected; the people of Cork will be massively affected by any decision regarding local government reform, why shouldn’t their opinion be invited?

My suggestion to the Minster of Sate for Local Government and Electoral Reform, John Paul Phelan, was that a plebiscite should be carried out to see what the public believe the best solution will be for their city and county.

The Minister has assured me that an implementation oversight group has been initiated to look into the issue of local government reform in Cork, and that any and all relevant avenues, including a referendum, will be considered.

A detailed implementation plan is anticipated for early autumn with the focus of resolving the local government issues. I hope that this will provide clarity and focus for the future development of Cork city and county.”