Proposals to amalgamate the Galway City Council and Galway County Council into one local authority body for the entire county should be “abandoned”, as rural areas, especially the Gaeltacht and the Islands, “would suffer as a result of the move”.
This is the view of Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Regional, Rural, Gaeltacht, and Island Affairs, Éamon Ó Cuív, who was speaking following the publication of the interim report from the expert advisory group. According to Dep Ó Cuív, the report “extols the benefits” of establishing an economic development unit within a new city and county structure, and discusses the possibility of linking in with IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, and the third level education institutions. However, he says it “completely ignores the Gaeltacht area”.
“Galway has the largest Gaeltacht in the State, and the Gaeltacht is a major driver of employment and economic growth in this area,” said the TD, “but the expert advisory group completely overlooks the region and its potential to benefit the city and the county. It is becoming ever more clear the philosophy behind this proposal is to move everything to the city centre – in line with this Government’s tunnel visioned spatial strategy.”
While the Cornamona based TD accused the Government of being “appear unable to see any potential beyond the major cities”, he acknowledged that Galway’s local authorities “need to work in a more efficient, effective ,and cohesive manner”. However he said this did not require setting up a new authority. “It is not in the best interests of the region or the people living here. It would be a retrograde step,” he said.
However the proposed amalgamation of Galway’s two local authorities remains on the table, an idea which has met near unanimous opposition from city and county councillors, although many fear amalgamation itself is “a fait accompli”. Some hope for Galway to retain both its councils came with an advisory group in Cork recommending an expansion of the Cork City Council as the “best governance model” rather than amalgamation, and the subsequent abandonment of the amalgamation proposals for Cork.