BY JACKIE KEOGH
A LETTER from the Department of Local Government has put councillors in West Cork on notice that there can be no change to the new boundary proposals.
Members of the Western Division had written to John Paul Phelan, TD, Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform, complaining that areas – such as Ring, Darrara, Timoleague and Courtmacsherry – had no business being removed from the West Cork Municipal District area and lumped in with the Bandon and Kinsale Municipal District.
But the minister’s private secretary wrote to the councillors saying that there was ‘no one overall solution.’ She said each proposal contained in the Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee report ‘required a balance of all relevant factors, such as population, extent of urban and rural population density, geography and topography, as well as consideration of community linkages.’
The private secretary said the minister was satisfied that the recommendations of the Committee ‘are clear and will enable work to commence within the Department on the preparation of the necessary orders … which will apply for the next local elections,’ that are due to be held in May 2019.
As chairman of the Western Division, Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said the response wasn’t good enough and he proposed that they should send a deputation to meet the minister, and his proposal was supported by the Council members.
Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan (FF) said the carving up of West Cork was ‘causing confusion and disappointment.’ He said the fact that the new boundary will extend ‘almost into the roundabout in Clonakilty town’ is ludicrous.
He said it made no sense for maintenance crews, or machinery, from Bandon, to travel so far west.
Cllr O’Sullivan said the issue was playing out in the media as ‘a squabble over who is gaining and who is losing votes.’ But he said: ‘That is not the issue at all. It is about a sense of identity.
‘I am proud to represent West Cork, all of West Cork, and the people in Darrara, for example, want to be a part of West Cork. That’s the crux of the issue. It is about identity.’
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) said he believes the entire boundary changes are ‘just plain stupid’. He pointed out that there are problems further west, too, because the new demarcations in the Western Division could see people who live one mile outside of Skibbereen being asked to vote for a Bantry candidate.
Cllr Carroll asked how regions, such as Leitrim can have 18 public representatives, while West Cork has eight. ‘Why have they been so skimpy down here, especially when you consider how big the area is geographically?’ asked Cllr Carroll.
Cllr Mary Hegarty (FG) said the further erosion of local authority powers and representation was a travesty. She said: ‘There are four public representatives in the western part of the Western Division despite the fact that the population number has risen.’
Cllr Hegarty said: ‘People are all mixed up. They don’t know who is representing them.’ Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) agreed with his constituency colleague, saying: ‘The four have to represent a huge area and all of the islands. It is a big job for us to take on.’
Cllr Kevin Murphy, who is a public representative for the Bandon Kinsale Municipal District, agreed with Cllr Carroll that ‘taking a skelp off Skibbereen and putting it into Dunmanway makes no sense’.
Only Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG), who lives in Courtmacsherry, spoke out in favour of the proposed boundary changes. He said: ‘We have to deal with the realities.’