LIMERICK county councillors may meet their city counterparts on the issue of a single local authority or boundary alteration in the coming weeks.
Cllr Kevin Sheahan proposed the move in view of the Minister for the Environment, John Gormley's, decision to appoint a commission to report on the feasibility of the proposed council or boundary changes.
Cllr Sheahan called for a sub-committee to be put in place that would be willing to have discussions with representatives of Limerick City Council.
Cllr Eddie Wade proposed the council write to all the local members in the Oireacthas to get their views because, he said, some hadn't been "consistent" over the years.
He said when Limerick City Council talked about the boundary extension they only ever spoke about Castletroy, Dooradoyle, Monaleen and never Ballysheedy, Ballysimon or Donoughmore.
However, Cllr John Sheahan said it was premature to set up a sub-committee to meet city council.
"I propose members of this authority sit in-committee to get agreement across all parties. Cllr Eddie Wade spoke about consistency. Let's be consistent as 28 members. If they have done their job they will have one voice," said Cllr John Sheahan.
He said the process should be done chronologically – give the Oireacthas members two weeks to give their reply, then meet in-committee with the manager, an extension of that will be Cllr Kevin Sheahan's motion.
His concern was that the whole process was a "fait accompli, brought in within the law not with agreement by the people. Will it go to Cabinet and be sanctioned, and we will all be redundant? This is getting serious. The Cabinet is wielding a stick."
Cllr Kevin Sheahan said moving a city problem into the county wasn't a solution.
"We need a strong prosperous Limerick city, but not at a price I can't afford," he said.
Cllr John Egan was opposed to moving the city into the county as he had seen the relocation of people and that "sheaves of County Limerick won't be looked after".
"The city is short of funds. We won't be providing funds for the city to pay for regeneration. It's all a smokescreen," he said.
Cllr James Collins said he understood that there were only two choices – move into the city environs, or one local authority.
"My understanding is there is no C. What we're trying to get across is what's best for Limerick. A strong city is a strong county. If we lose the environs, we lose 40 per cent of commercial rates. We will not be able to prosper and progress," said Cllr Collins, who added that the best interests of Limerick would be served by one local authority., compared to a boundary extension
Cllr Mary Harty said the city council wanted an extension because it was stuck for money.
"It's not about quality of service, it's about money," she said.
Cllr Mary Jackman asked why was the city extending outwards?
"We should be looking in and taking over. In comparison to other Munster counties, Limerick's towns are much smaller. The environs help enormously to keep the county going. We have a better record in running our business,” said Cllr Jackman.
Cllr Pat O’Donovan said there were two types of Limerick people, and it was “to hell with you if you are living in south Limerick, east Limerick, west Limerick”.
“There is never any mention of Mountcollins or Pallasgreen, just Dooradoyle, Monaleen and Castletroy. Small rural parishes will be chewed up and spat out. The whole debate from day one is about money. Since Job was a boy, the city council has been in the red,” said Cllr O’Donovan, who added the two Government backbenchers had conveniently forgotten about their local authority.
Cllr Eddie Ryan noted that Tipperary wasn’t short of town councils yet they wanted one in Limerick, and that he was “very fearful” about what would happen to services in rural areas.
Cllr Tomas Hannon was not in favour of one authority and pointed to HSE rationalisation. He said it should be discussed “in-house, and, as far as possible, we should be of one voice.”
Ned Gleeson, county manager, said it was an opportunity to devise a set of new options. He said it was his understanding that the commission’s brief was not to look at any specific thing, but to look at the governance of Limerick.
“Boundaries and maps are not the way to solve theses issues,” said Mr Gleeson, who said they weren’t confined to coming up with just an A or a B approach in the councillors’ committee meeting, but a C, or even a D.