THE population of Clare is to be slashed by 3,000 people if recommendations in a new report are approved by Cabinet.
The Limerick Local Government Report proposes a number of radical changes concerning the governance of Limerick City and County, which will see a slice of South-East Clare come under a new Limerick authority. The proposals concern the amalgamation of Limerick City and County Councils to serve a population in the region of 185,000, including the area north of the city in Shannon Banks and Westbury.
The new authority would also govern the entire campus of the University of Limerick, which has seen substantial growth on the Clare side over the last six years.
It is also proposed that Clare County Council would nominate one councillor from its existing membership to represent the Shannon Banks and Westbury area on the new Limerick authority.
It further recommends that there be a directly elected mayor for the new Limerick authority, who would serve for a five-year term similar to the proposal for Dublin City Council.
The Clare Champion understands that Environment Minister John Gormley told a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday he had received a copy of the report. It was decided the report should be published this Thursday following the return of the chairman of the new Limerick Local Government Committee, Denis Brosnan.
The Department of the Environment remained tight-lipped about the contents of the report when questioned on Wednesday afternoon. However, a department spokesman confirmed a press briefing is scheduled to take place in the Strand Hotel, Limerick this Thursday at 4pm.
Councillor Pascal Fitzgerald, who lived in the Westbury Housing Estate for 15 years, called on Mayor of Clare Councillor Christy Curtin to convene a special meeting to discuss the contents of the report.
He expressed disappointment with the proposed inclusion of Westbury and Shannon Banks under a new Limerick authority.
“The fight to prevent a boundary extension into Clare isn’t over yet. Clare County Council has already made a good case as to why the boundary should remain intact and I see no reason why Westbury and Shannon Banks should become part of any new Limerick authority,” he said.
Councillor Christy Curtin said three proposed boundary extensions of Limerick City into South-East Clare have been rejected over the last 30 years.
“There should be no change in the county boundary. Clare stands alone as a single authoritative unit and this has been outlined in the recent report on efficiency in local government.
“We want the status quo to remain. Clare County Council presented a coherent submission and we have a justifiable case. We need to use every avenue at our disposal and have to engage with each other to ensure the wishes of Clare people are met.
He noted that Clare County Council provides a good service in the area and only recently provided a new local area office in Westbury.
“The council has got good political representation in the Killaloe Electoral Area from this area. The needs of South-East Clare have always been identified as a top priority in the existing and new County Development Plan. I have used every public engagement to justify the retention of County Clare as a viable economic unit,” he said.
The Mayor of Clare urged Taoiseach Brian Cowen at the recent opening of the Shannon Tunnel to use his influence to ensure the boundary extension is not granted.
Denis Brosnan also chaired the task force on the Mid-West, which is leading the response to the economic downturn in the region. The other members of the Limerick Local Government Committee include Maurice Carr, partner, BDO Simpson Xavier; John Cullen, former director general of the Institute of Public Administration; Brendan Tuohy, former secretary general of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and Michelle Wilson, town planner, director of Tiros Resources.