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Local Authority Boundaries Review: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael Harty: Information on Michael Harty Zoom on Michael Harty] This is an issue which will arise in many areas in future. It may be the areas to which I have referred, but other areas may have boundary extensions imposed upon them. There are historical, sporting, cultural and social reasons for our existing boundaries. Boundaries should not be interfered with lightly by technocrats and bureaucrats who do not understand the significance of place in Irish society. These factors are very important to people who live in these areas. On Thursday next, I understand Deputy Eugene Murphy will introduce a Bill, the Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2017, which aims to ensure that local communities have a final say in any proposals for a county boundary change, which effectively happened in Clare six years ago. It would place a requirement on the Minister with responsibility for local government to hold a plebiscite on any boundary change that would require a majority to decide on whether a boundary change should take place. This Bill deserves close scrutiny.

Boundary changes are usually proposed by bigger authorities to annex profitable areas of smaller authorities, of course under the guise of better administration and governance. Quite often, such changes and marked out with a ruler and take no account of parish, townland or natural boundaries. This is the case as it pertains to the proposal to annex Monksland in Roscommon to Westmeath. This is counter to the ideals of balanced regional development, which is proposed and promoted in the Programme for a Partnership Government. The main impetus for boundary changes is, of course, financial and relate to commercial rates and property tax. They take from the smaller authorities, which further reduces their ability to provide services, roads, housing, infrastructure and amenities.

The justification for such boundary extensions are not well founded in many cases. I believe an alternative solution is available. Adjoining councils should work in partnership if it is to the mutual benefit of both councils in terms of service delivery and regional development. It should not be to the detriment of one council over the other. In the case of Clare County Council, annexation of south-east Clare would not in any way enhance Clare to reach its full potential. If urban expansion is at the expense of rural communities then it is against the ideal of balanced regional development. Annexation should not be an acceptable model. Meaningful co-operation and engagement would be a far better and more productive method of dealing with boundary issues, rather than annexation, and it should observe the democratic will of the people. Boundary changes are another demonstration of how the dismantling of local government removes democracy further away from the people. We should have a return to the local government structures that were dismantled in 2014. Then we could have some meaningful democratic dialogue on boundary change.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae I am glad to have an opportunity to speak on this very important motion. As we look at it, it would seem it only affects Cork city and rural Cork but, by extension, if it goes ahead it will also affect people in the county I represent, because the people of south and west Kerry and the people of east Kerry have a lot of interaction and financial dealings with the people of Cork on either side of them. This is a blatant attempt to pauperise the people in rural Cork, and areas in south-west Cork and north-west Cork, and likewise in Kerry. One of the parishes I represent, and have represented for many years, is Rathmore. Parts of this great parish are actually in the county of Cork, namely, Rathduane, Knocknaloman, Hollymount, Caherbarnagh, Carrigaline and Nohoval. I would be letting down the people of that parish if I was not to support the motion.

  I do not blame Mr. Mackinnon, who wrote the report, and I do not know him. I blame the people who hired him and thought of this idea to take funding away from areas that are already under savage pressure to retain their identity. The people from places like Ardgroom, Eyeries, Urhan, Allihies, Cahermore, Castletownbere itself and Adrigole and, indeed, all of Berehaven are much the same kind of people as the people I represent in Kerry. I know what they have to go through and what they have to endure to get funding. If we are to take this funding stream of up to €80 million from rates, with no account of how much property tax they will be denied, we will see more devastation and roads falling apart.

  I have to say if we go from the Top of Coom to the mouth of the Glen and down into Ballingeary and Inchigeela on the way to Dunmanway, and from Toonsbridge back to Kealkill and back to Bantry, many of the roads are the very same as the day when Michael Collins was shot at the monument. Things have not improved since then and it is worse they will get if this is allowed to go through. I call on all of the Members in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, because they will do a massive wrong to the people they represent if they allow this to go ahead. I ask them to disregard the Mackinnon report and also show fair play to the people of north-west Cork, including Rockchapel, Ballydesmond, Knocknagree and Cullen, and in between we have Cúil Aodha, Ballymakeera and Kilnamartyra and, like I said, Reananeree, Kealkill and the Borlin Valley. All of these places are neglected enough as it is, but if the Government is going to do this and take this funding stream away from them, it will be what I would call the height of blackguarding.

  Already we are seeing in a battle in Dublin as they are regretting giving any funding outside of the Red Cow, and that is a fact. We had them on the television the other night. My colleague, Deputy Mattie McGrath, was making his case for Tipperary, and like that, I want to make our case for Kerry and Cork, and the rural parts of the west. We hear there is no problem in the world in giving €132 million for a glorified footpath in Dublin, when the total expenditure we will get for the county of Kerry is no more than that. We are asking for fair play, and we are looking for fair play, and that is what we want, because the people that we represent are entitled to fair play and up until now they have not been getting it.

  It is a battle and a fight every day to get any of the services that fall into place in urban areas. There are two places where it seems to happen no bother, because every morning when we wake up there are another 100 jobs in Dublin and 200 jobs in Cork and vice versa every second morning. All the urban areas seem to get favour but whatever is wrong, whether it is IDA Ireland or whatever other groups are supposed to be helping people in rural Ireland, it is not happening. I am asking the Government not to take this funding stream or this money that these people depend on. They are only getting a very small amount. The Minister of State can travel the areas I am speaking about, through Berehaven and mid-Cork, which is totally neglected as well, because we do not have the jobs and we cannot keep the people there. Likewise there are the poorer areas, from Cullen through Knocknagree and Ballydesmond and up into Rockchapel. Who thought of taking this away? That is the question I am asking. Who thought of this brilliant idea to hurt rural Ireland further?

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