FIANNA Fail county councillor Kevin Sheahan says the Parteen and Shannon Banks area should be part of any new enlarged, metropolitan Limerick. The area, which is technically in Co Clare, is a natural suburb, he said this week.
His comments come as Government backbencher and Limerick TD Patrick O’Donovan said that he expects the Government commission, which will determine the make-up and numbers of the new single Limerick local authority, to be appointed within the next ten days.
And he expects that it will make its recommendations by next March, well over a year before the next local elections.
Cllr Kevin Sheahan however has slammed this time-frame as too tight saying it is unfair to voters, to existing councillors and to aspiring councillors, given the huge shake-up that will be involved.
And he has accused the Minister responsible, Phil Hogan of breaking a commitment made to county councillors earlier this year.
“My biggest gripe is that the Minister said he was setting up the commission in September and we would have a result by January,” Cllr Sheahan said.
“My expectation now is that we will not know until June.”
Mr O’Donovan however defended the time-frame arguing it was in line with normal procedure following a census.
And he also disagreed with Cllr Sheahan’s proposal about Parteen and Shannon Banks, saying that county boundaries, and natural boundaries, must be respected of part of the reorganisation of local government.
In any reshaping of electoral areas, Mr O’Donovan said, the main objective must be to achieve a level playing field as far as possible. But he believes it might be necessary to weight the quotas for councillors in sprawling rural electoral areas in order to achieve fair play.
It is widely expected that the number of councillors on the new Limerick council will be 40, a reduction on the current total of 45, made up of 28 for the county and 17 for the city.
The biggest concern for all councillors, however, is how the five county electoral areas and four city wards will be reconfigured.
According to some political pundits, there will be at most six electoral areas in the new council; two six-seaters and four seven-seaters.
Three of these could be within the enlarged Limerick metropolitan area, with a further three in the county, centred around Newcastle West, Rathkeale and Kilmallock, raising fears among many councillors that they could lose their base.
Cllr Sheahan also warned that the proposal to establish a Limerick, metropolitan area of 100,000 people would push the city limit well beyond the current environs and into rural Co Limerick.
“It will have to come as far as Mungret or even parts of Clarina,” he predicted.
“That will mean we will be baling hay in the middle of a city electoral area, which is daft.”
Meanwhile, the final report of the working group overseeing the amalgamation of both councils is due this month.