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Deputy Michael Harty highlights issues that really matter to people when boundary changes are proposed.

Clare hurlers playing for Limerick?

DR Michael Harty has told Dáil Éireann that Clare would lose inter-county hurlers, if parts of the county were subsumed into Limerick.

He was speaking on a Private Members’ Local Authority Boundaries Review debate on Tuesday, which looked at similar issues in Cork.

“Anyone familiar with Clare hurling will know that most of our senior team, which has been successful in recent years, come from that area. I am sure people in those areas would not swap the saffron and blue for the green of Limerick, although I am originally from Limerick myself. These are the issues that are important to people when a boundary change is proposed and they are not to be underestimated,” the Independent Clare TD told Dáil Éireann.

“Such was the opposition to this proposal that it was not politically possible to pursue it and the then Minister, Phil Hogan, decided not to act on the annexation proposal. A group called Clare Against the Boundary Change campaigned on the matter for several years and, on one occasion, had a rally attended by 10,000 people. That was democracy in action, when people successfully voted with their feet to oppose boundary changes.

“Recently, the matter was proposed once again by a Sinn Féin councillor but I hope that will not happen, as I had assumed the issue had been finally put to bed. It proved a very contentious issue in 2011, when Limerick City proposed to annex a portion of South-East Clare into Limerick City.

A committee, chaired by Denis Brosnan, proposed to incorporate Shannon Banks, Westbury and the parts of Limerick University that lay on the Clare side of the river into Limerick City, including the parishes of Meelick, Parteen, Ardnacrusha and Clonlara,” Dr Harty pointed out.

“The justification for such boundary extensions are not well founded in many cases. I believe an alternative solution is available. Adjoining councils should work in partnership, if it is to the mutual benefit of both councils, in terms of service delivery and regional development. It should not be to the detriment of one council over the other.

“In the case of Clare County Council, annexation of South-East Clare would not in any way enhance Clare to reach its full potential. This is an issue that will arise in many areas in future. It may be the areas to which I have referred, but other areas may have boundary extensions imposed upon them.

“There are historical, sporting, cultural and social reasons for our existing boundaries. Boundaries should not be interfered with lightly by technocrats and bureaucrats, who do not understand the significance of place in Irish society. These factors are very important to people who live in these areas,” he added.

“On Thursday, I understand, Deputy Eugene Murphy will introduce a Bill, the Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2017, which aims to ensure that local communities have a final say in any proposals for a county boundary change, which effectively happened in Clare six years ago.

“It would place a requirement on the Minister with Responsibility for Local Government to hold a plebiscite on any boundary change that would require a majority to decide on whether a boundary change should take place. This Bill deserves close scrutiny,” the Kilmihil-based TD concluded.


Peter O’Connell

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