COUNCILLORS in West Cork have called on people to voice their ‘frustration and anger’ about the proposed boundary changes.
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) led a debate on the issue at a recent meeting of the Western Committee saying: ‘We must highlight peoples’ concerns before it is too late.’
His proposal that they write to the relevant Government departments, the Boundary Commission and the local Oireachtas members – outlining their, and their constituents’ dissatisfaction with the recent findings of the Boundary Commission – was approved by the committee members.
The Sinn Féin councillor said it was his understanding that amendments could be made at Oireachtas level before local boundary changes are implemented.
With the backing of the councillors, he said they should write and insist that the natural hinterlands of Clonakilty from Ring to Timoleague – including Courtmacsherry, Lislevane, Darrara and Butlerstown – remain with the West Cork Municipal District, instead of moving, as proposed by the Boundary Commission, into the Bandon Kinsale Municipal District.
Cllr Hayes said that retaining the areas from Ring to Timoleague would reflect the existing trade, tourism and educational ties between these two areas.
As part of the proposed boundary changes, there is a proposal to create two distinct regions – Skibbereen and Bantry – within the newly revised West Cork Municipal District and to bump-up the number of public representatives from eight to nine, with Skibbereen getting five councillors, and Bantry getting four.
But Cllr Hayes was of the opinion that even more representatives are needed to adequately cover the sprawling constituency, and he called on both the Oireachtas and County Council members to ‘lobby to have these issues resolved.’
In seconding the motion, Cllr Rachel McCarthy (SF) said: ‘It is a pity that this is being rushed through.’ And county mayor Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF) agreed with her assessment that what is being proposed is ‘a disaster’.
The mayor pointed out that there are people living within a mile or two of Skibbereen who will – during the May 2019 local elections – be asked to vote for a Bantry candidate.
He claimed the Boundary Commission had made ‘a dog’s breakfast’ of the West Cork Municipal District area and he urged his colleagues to ‘fight on.’
Cllr James O’Donovan (FG) said that what is being proposed ‘makes no sense.’ He made the startling but rather obvious point: ‘You can see Clonakilty from Ring so to put Ring in with Bandon and Kinsale is just nonsensical.’
Cllr O’Donovan said: ‘We need to be very strong on this and approach our Oireachtas members because, even though it is at an advanced stage, it still has to be signed off.’
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) said his brother the Independent TD, Michael Collins, had raised the issue in the Dáil and was told in the corridors of power that it was ‘a done deal and to forget about it.’
Cllr Mary Hegarty (FG) expressed her frustration saying: ‘The goalposts are being moved continually’ and she complained that whoever suggested the changes clearly has no understanding of the geography of the area.
Cllr Hegarty said: ‘People still don’t know the effect the proposed boundary changes will have on them’ and Cllr Aidan Lombard (FG) observed that ‘a parish is bigger than a line drawn on a map.’
In this instance, he said: ‘The decision makers are too far removed from Cork because they clearly don’t know the fundamentals of the area.’
Cllr Gillian Coughlan (FF) said the logistics don’t stack up because the Council’s area office in Bandon is already over-stretched and couldn’t possible meet the additional administration demands that would be placed on it without significant, additional resources.