LIMERICK City would have secured its longed for boundary extension as far back as the 1970s if council management had not been so greedy, Desmond O’Malley has said.
And the city has suffered since then, the former Trade and Justice Minister has told the Limerick Leader.
The founder of the Progressive Democrats also argued there is a need for a new political party in Ireland.
Speaking after being given a lifetime achievement award by Limerick Chamber president Cathal Treacy, Mr O’Malley, who was in cabinet for the vast majority of his 34-year political career, said he would have favoured a boundary extension, rather than the merger of the two authorities, which was confirmed earlier this year.
“I started advocating a boundary extension back in 1974, but the mistake made at the time was the city manager sent an application that went out for miles around the city. I said to him: ‘They are not going to grant you that, or anything like it. There is no point doing it. So he said, ‘I know they won’t give us anything like this, but if you ask for enough, you might get a small bit,” he said.
However, this was a folly, the founding leader of the Progressive Democrats, said, describing the manager of the day’s application as “foolish”.
Mr O’Malley said had the application been far less ambitious, Limerick would have secured its extension.
“They would have [secured an extension],” he said, “I think that caused development in the city to go outside. This is why the centre of the city got neglected.”
He also said a mistake was made putting social housing miles away from the centre of the city, saying: “This should have been utilised in smaller centres in the city.”
He conceded that although his own preference was for an extension of the administrative boundary to the likes of Raheen and Dooradoyle, the amalgamation “is the next best thing”.
“Certainly this is better than nothing at all,” he said.
Mr O’Malley believes Limerick is coming out of some “very difficult years”, but is improving.
The former Fianna Fail member broke new ground in 1985 when he founded the Progressive Democrats.
Now, former Fine Gael Junior Minister Lucinda Creighton is set to launch her own party, and Shane Ross may do likewise.
Mr O’Malley said: “I do think there is not just an opening for a new party, but in my opinion there is a need for one. Whether it can happen or not, I don’t know. It is much more difficult to start a party now than when I did it.”
He said only some parallels can be drawn between the start of the Reform Alliance, and the founding of his own party, which was wound up in 2009.
“There are some parallels I suppose. But the circumstances are very different now. You cannot draw too many parallels, I do not think,” he said.
With his memoir, Conduct Unbecoming - a reference to the reason he was kicked out of Fianna Fail - now on the bestseller list, Mr O’Malley has still to decide what he is to do with his new found free time.
His final duty in relation to that was a signing in Galway the morning after he received the Chamber award.
And as for the prize - a unique sculpture crafted from bog oak by Joe O’Shea of ‘Banner Bog Oak’ - Limerick’s longest serving TD said: “It is a great honour. I was delighted to get it. I am very grateful for the Limerick Chamber of Commerce for giving it to me, and all the nice things they said.”