Despite strong opposition from both city and county councillors, there are widespread fears the Minister for Local Government Eoghan Murphy will proceed with the controversial proposal to merge the Galway city and county councils.
The interim report of the Expert Advisory Group Review on local government arrangements in Galway, which examines the impact of the possible amalgamation of the two local authorities, was presented to Minister Murphy on June 19.
The proposed merger was discussed by county councillors before Christmas with many fearing the Government had already decided that it wanted the amalgamation to go ahead, with Cllr Pat Hynes saying the merger was a "fait accompli". Cllr Tim Broderick said: "The deal is done. The Minister will tell us there is an amalgamation coming down the line."
These concerns have persisted, and Fianna Fáil TD Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív said he was "deeply concerned" that despite "strong opposition" from the majority of elected representatives, Minister Murphy was still considering the proposal as part of a wider report on local Government.
Dep Ó Cuív said he had “no difficulty" in the councils sharing services and co-operating, but leaving Galway - the second largest county in Ireland - with just one local authority would result in a "completely unwieldy" council which could see "more marginal urban and rural communities losing out". This concern has also been expressed by councillors, with many fearing Galway city would become "a black hole", sucking all funds and projects towards it at the expense of county areas.
Dep Ó Cuív is calling on the Minister to "listen to the voices of local people, learn from their knowledge of local areas, and to accept the democratic wish of the vast majority of people in Galway", and reject any amalgamation of the councils. He also called for a "more open, transparent, and democratic process when it comes to deciding the future" of the councils.
While Fianna Fáil is "resolutely opposed" to the proposed merger, some councillors, such as Tom McHugh, Tom Welby, Peter Broderick, James Charity, and Michael Fahy, have urged their fellow elected representatives to be open to the idea. Cllr Fahy has said that a combined Galway authority "will have more influence", as the new council would have a majority of county based councillors. He envisaged a scenario of 21 for the county to "six or seven" for the city - thus ensuring county needs were not swamped by those of the city.