Galway’s elected representatives have said that a serious shortfall in funding for the local authorities in Galway city and county must be addressed before its possible to debate an amalgamation.
The TDs were speaking in the Dáil about an amendment to the Local Government Bill 2018 concerning redrawing the boundaries of Cork City.
An amendment proposed by the Seanad to deleted a section of the bill which creates a single Chief Executive of the city and county to facilitate amalgamation.
Regardless of whether they supported or opposed amalgamation, Galway’s TDs said there are too many issues unique to Galway for it to be progressed as a small item in another bill.
Issues such as a long standing funding shortfall for Galway city and county require their own dedicated debate in the Dáil, has been the common opinion expressed.
It was suggested at meetings that Local Property Tax would go a ways towards making up the shortfall in funding for Galway according to Michael Fitzmaurice, but he said “A small amount will not resolve the issues in Galway.”
He insisted it will take a combined effort from many departments to address the issues like roads and infrastructure that have been affected because the county is “starved of funding”.
Minister of State for Local Government John Paul Phelan tried to reassure the representatives that changes in the works for how local property tax is allocated will “over time” bridge the funding gap in Galway and elsewhere.
This was met with derision from Eamon Ó Cuív who said he would not accept promises of “distant vague equality” of services and funding.
“If the Minister of State thinks we will either sign off on any change or indefinitely accept the situation where we are second-class citizens, that day is gone.”
Concerning the expert report which recommended amalgamating the city and county for economic reason, Independent TD Catherine Connolly pointed to recent research from NUI Galway suggesting there is not enough evidence to make an informed opinion.
“The most basic conclusion of this research is that the evidence is inconclusive. Some research says ‘Yes’ and some research says ‘No’.”
Deputy Seán Kyne said that while he was in favour of an amalgamated authority himself, Galway has a number of unique obstacles to address.
“We face a number of challenges which include those related to the coastline, offshore islands and the size of the county that give rise to a potential need for extra expenditure.”
He asked Minister Phelan if it was still the government’s plan to return with a bill for merging Galway this Autumn, and if so, what consultations would be taken with the people of Galway and their representatives.
The Committee agreed on all the amendments proposed by the Seanad and sent them on to the Dáil.