Thursday, 13 December 2018
Local Government Bill 2018: Report and Final Stages
I would like to speak to the amendment. Deputy Ryan is well able to speak on behalf of the people of Cork, especially as he come down to my parish to get married. I would never doubt his good intentions for the people of Cork.
The Bill will have detrimental consequences for people living in County Cork and in the constituency I represent. I have no doubt about this. I have brought this matter up time and again, including on Committee Stage with amendments I tabled and in a motion I tabled in the Dáil last year, which surprisingly got no support from any Cork Deputies, even though most of them are representing County Cork and the areas that are totally opposed to the boundary extension. This Bill is being rushed through the Dáil. On Committee Stage, some of my amendments were ruled out of order, which I found a bit strange. Other Deputies found this with regard to Galway. We are not getting enough time to debate this issue, which is very serious issue. While we might have the time to debate it now, it is like chariots with horses racing through to make sure they get across the line. On the way, tens of thousands of people will be affected.
I firmly believe the financial settlement needs to be for at least 15 years so the county can continue to grow. Anything less than that - and there is talk of reviews taking place within the first few months - will be detrimental. Reviews could affect any compensation package not already in place. It is like signing a blank cheque at the moment. We do not know what the county is going to get or what the real terms and conditions are. We felt from the initial discussions that it was going to be over a number of years. I gather that this is changing and it could be just a number of months before there are reviews. We need to have assurances that if Cork City Council is unable or unwilling to make a financial settlement, the Minister of State would guarantee that payment through his Department. We cannot find ourselves in a situation where Cork County Council and Cork City Council head into court to fight this.
It will create further unnecessary disagreements between two parties that need to work together for the betterment of city and county. Rural areas such as Blarney and Tower have said through their local representatives that they do not want to be taken in under the city expansion. This is being forced against them no matter what discussions have taken place at council level. The message relayed back to me is that Cork County Council completely opposes this. That includes every councillor from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and across the political spectrum, but they are all being ignored. Democracy is completely gone out the window here. The Government is railroading this through regardless. Approximately 6,000 signatures were handed in from the people of Ballincollig and its surrounds opposing this but they went missing and cannot be found now. This city boundary could lead to major losses in the county that I represent, where ten businesses have closed in the past two months. I am not going to go through them again as I have often raised those issues here between post offices, pubs, schools and whatever. That is rural Ireland and County Cork is haemorrhaging badly. While I accept that the cities might be building and progressing well, counties are not. In this situation County Cork is not.
We do not know what kind of compensation package is going to be put in place. We do not know for how long or what guarantees are being put in place. Cork County Council and the people of Cork county are being forced to accept a blank cheque, which will have detrimental effects going forward. It is a complete and utter land grab and nothing else. I found very few people who support it but the support unfortunately came from the powers that be within Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. They should not have supported it. They should have spoken to their councillors on the ground. It is the very same as the local authority boundary changes. We are not allowed speak about them at committee level, we are not allowed speak about them in here when Courtmacsherry, Timoleague and all those areas have been taken out without the consent of the people. The majority of the people said they wanted to stay in the Clonakilty-Skibbereen electoral area but they were moved and did not have a say. More and more, as time goes on, people's voices are not being listened to in this country. The majority of people and the local councillors are not being listened to and this is going to have a detrimental effect. I refer to the expansion of Cork city to the detriment of the county; a local boundary change for a local authority; the Castletownbere transportation plan to which people are totally opposed; and the Skibbereen plastic factory where I am going to attend a meeting later this evening. In all these cases the people feel as if their voices are not being heard.
The Minister of State has to give assurances at least if this is railroaded through and I as an elected representative have no say in it. The powers that be have decided it is a fait accompliand a job done; they just want to get it across the line quick, keep their mouths shut and move on. That might be the kind of politics they want but it is not the kind of politics that the people on the ground want or what councillors and Fine Gael supporters want. I tabled a motion in the House last year opposing this but I received no support from any Deputy from Cork. I knew what damage it was going to cause to my county and I certainly could not support anything like it. If the city council is unable or unwilling to make a financial settlement for 15 years, will the Minister of State guarantee that his Department will make it?