Sinn Féin restate broad support for principles of McKinnon report, and call for dialogue - Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD
The three Cork Sinn Féin TDs, as well as it's 7 County and 8 City Councillors have restated their support for the McKinnon report, with some qualifications, while calling for the Department of Housing to provide clarity and certainty on the process.
The Party also called for a fair and permanent means of finance for both Councils to be on a sustainable footing.
Deputy Ó Laoghaire said;
"Sinn Féin, from the outset of this debate, have had a common position across both Local Authorities, in trying to map a unique and positive vision for the future of Local Government in Cork.
"In the first instance, we were firmly of the view that a merger would be disastrous, not only for peripheral parts of West and North Cork, but would also hamper the strategic focus needed to develop a prosperous City. The experience in Limerick and Waterford has not been positive.
"I also note, significantly, that the proposal to merge Galway County and City Councils, has been met with near unanimous opposition from Councillors in the City and the County, particularly from representatives of West Galway.
"Our position has always been to have two strong, Independent Local Authorities, with their own executives, and independent Budgets, and a strategic body above them, with powers including regional planning, responsible for coordinating the two Councils.
"In that context, we are dismayed at what has transpired since, and the very public disagreement. It has been damaging to Local Government in Cork to see this played out in Public.
Councils closer than presented
"The reality is that the Local Authorities are not as far apart as has been presented. We believe a resolution is possible, with some leadership and maturity from both executives and councils.
"Both Councils now support a 2 Local Authority approach.
"Both Councils accept that the City needs to grow. The extent of the expansion is contentious, but this can be overcome.
"Much of the concerns in relation to this relate to the implications for finance. We believe that if the Department adopted the Sinn Féin proposals on Finance, that would ally many fears.
"We propose that a strategic authority, above both Councils, would be responsible, for managing the fair distribution of rates, to ensure adequate levels of service in both Rural and Urban areas, and this would be a permanent arrangement, conscious of the differing needs of both authorities.
District & Town Councils
"We also want to see more powers given to elected Cllrs from management, and to see powers devolved to district or town Councils, under the City and County Councils, dealing with Local matters - why should places such as Ballincollig or Mallow not have their own Local Councils?
"We are all united in our desire for Cork to thrive. We are all united in our desire to see some of our towns and rural areas which have been left behind, and neglected, prosper, and to see Cork become a significant counter balance to Dublin. We want a thriving region.
"The McKinnon recommendations, as it was presented first day, offers a better solution for this issue, than has been on the table for 20 years - this debate has been going on far too long.
"The vacuum and lack of clarity from the Department has also been deeply frustrating and created a vacuum. They need to provide clarity to the legitimate concerns raised by Cllrs, and to give greater clarity to the process as it will go from here.
"To create the Cork we want, we need both Councils pulling in the same direction. We are calling on both Local Authorities to get around the table and discuss this issue, to try and resolve the issues of Finance, and to reach agreement that will stand us in good stead for the next 30 years.
"Our people in Cork are frustrated at political bickering. The two Councils need to engage directly, to bridge the gap that exists. It is possible, and necessary to allow Cork to reach it's potential."