CORK’S TURF WAR: DIVISION AND DIVIDES
A proposal to make Cork city seven times bigger has local politicians vying for land and income
year for 10 years in compensation to the county. The area in question generates ¤86 million a year in revenue, minus ¤46 million it spends on service provision in the area.
But – like every aspect of this story – the finances are the subject of debate. A Cork City Council source says the Mackinnon figure of the ¤40 million per annum loss to the county council is based on the minority Smiddy report expansion, which includes Carrigaline, Ringaskiddy, Monkstown and Passage, which Mackinnon excludes from his extension. Therefore, the source says, the figure should be less.
The current mayor of Co Cork, Declan Hurley, claims Cork City Council would not be able to spend the same money per head of population in a Mackinnon city as it currently does: ¤1,363 in the city compared to the county’s ¤737.
And a Cork City Hall source says the county’s figures do not give a true picture as the ¤737 is an average across the county, and the provision of services in the suburban areas involved spending of ¤297 per capita and would not be as big a drain on city funds as the county council is suggesting.
Meanwhile, the Lord Mayor of Cork, Tony Fitzgerald, reminded county suburban dwellers in Rochestown, Grange and Frankfield that their local property tax was being used by Cork County Council to fund services in north and west Cork.
“Data shows that much revenue generated in these de facto city suburbs and satellite towns is diverted to fund services in more remote parts of the county with lower populations, whereas Cork City Council believes rates and taxes should be spent where they are raised.”
Since Mackinnon was published the debate has become more heated, with Cork County Council taking the perhaps surprising step of offering to cede land to Cork City Council that would see the city expand in area by 84.5 per cent to 69.76sq km and in population by 31.2 per cent to 164,915.
Under this county council offer the city would expand to include Doughcloyne, Frankfield, Grange Donnybrook, Castletreasure and Rochestown on the southside and Kilbarry, Kilcully and Ballyvolane on the north side – but not Ballincollig, Blarney, Glanmire, Little Island or Carrigtwohill.
Cork City Council has rejected the offer, saying it is not possible to reconcile the county council offer with “the principles and rationale” of the Mackinnon report which have been accepted by Government.
That rejection by the city led earlier this month to Cork County Council formally making the offer of territory to the city under section 29 of the Local Government Act. This requires the county council to embark on a public consultation process with affected communities.
Fianna Fáil city councillor Tim Brosnan accused the county council of making the offer as a stalling exercise to prevent a group appointed by Minister for Local Government Eoghan Murphy from finalising a boundary extension.
Whatever Cork County Council’s motivation, the section 29 offer is likely to slow down the implementation of the Mackinnon report, and while some city councillors have urged the county to engage with Mackinnon as “the only show in town”, it may not be a fait accompli.
The reality is that national politics will also have a part to play. Whatever deal is reached it will have to be agreeable not just to Eoghan Murphy but also Micheál Martin.
Several sources, both political and business, view what Cork County Council has offered so far as simply its opening pitch. It is expected that “an improved offer” to cede more territory to the city will be made over the coming months, but any such deal will have to be endorsed at Cabinet level.
“I can see a lot of horse trading yet,” says one observer. “All the south side suburbs will go into the city and maybe the airport too, which is worth about ¤5 million in revenue, as the county might concede on that if the city really pushed for it in terms of the prestige and status it would bring.
“Glanmire and all to the west of the N8 could all go into the city, along with all the land inside the proposed Northern Ring Road, but I see Carrigtwohill staying in the county, while I reckon there will be a contest over Ballincollig and to a lesser extent Blarney – it’s going to be very interesting.”
Top: Fianna Fáil councillor Bob Ryan in Matey, Co Cork, the proposed new boundary of Cork city currently 17km from the city. Above: Fine Gael councillor Deirdre Forde at the current boundary line between Cork city and county in Douglas village. PHOTOGRAPHS: MICHAEL MAC SWEENEY/ PROVISION & DARAGH MCSWEENEY/ PROVISION Stalling exercise