Proposals to amalgamate the Galway city and county councils into one local authority body appears to be falling out of favour after a Government minister said there was no support for the move and that it was time to "move on".
Sean Kyne, the Fine Gael Galway West TD and Minister for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development, this week called for "certainty on the future of the city and council councils". However, underlying his remarks appears to be a call for the proposed amalgamation to be abandoned on the basis it is attracting no support, and also the longer the idea lingers without being implemented, the greater the levels of uncertainty it creates for both councils.
In 2015 the Government commissioned the Report of the Galway Local Government Committee, which called for the city and county councils to be merged into a new body, the Greater Galway Local Authority, by 2019. The report has met with near unanimous opposition from city and county councillors since then.
A majority of county councillors feared that in any merger, Galway city would become "a black hole", sucking all funds and projects towards it at the expense of county areas. In September, Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Regional, Rural, Gaeltacht, and Island Affairs, Éamon Ó Cuív, said rural areas, especially the Gaeltacht and the Islands, "would suffer as a result of the move" towards amalgamation.
“Galway has the largest Gaeltacht in the State, and the Gaeltacht is a major driver of employment and economic growth in this area," said Dep Ó Cuív. "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."
This week, Dep Kyne appeared to call for the plans to amalgamate both bodies to be scrapped, saying: "It’s time to draw a line under this process. Had there been consensus and buy-in from all sides it may have worked but at this stage there is no prospect of agreement on an amalgamation and we must move on."
The Connemara based TD said the "uncertainty surrounding the future of the councils" had led to "less effective decision making" and an "inability" for councils to plan ahead effectively, "not knowing what shape local government in Galway would take".
Minister Kyne said: "Galway city and county councils need to know what their future is. We have a situation where senior officials are in an 'acting' role for years at this stage. This is unacceptable both from an organisational and professional point of view. Both the city and county need the benefit of certainty so we all can contribute to plans which put Galway on a firm footing, making the best of our wonderful advantages and being ready to take advantage of the opportunities which will inevitably come our way."