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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 17 Oct 2017

Vol. 960 No. 4

Local Authority Boundaries Review: Motion [Private Members]

I call Deputy Michael Collins to move the motion. He and his colleagues have 20 minutes between them.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann

recognises that:

— there is an attempt by agencies in the private sector and State bodies to encroach on county boundaries;

— the National Planning Framework document seems to imply that changes in county boundaries are a distinct possibility;

— the reform of Cork City’s boundary is the most significant reform of local government structures in the history of the State;

— the National Planning Framework is put in place to ensure Ireland has long-term economic, environmental and social progress in all parts of the country, however, further recognises that this plan will do the opposite for rural areas;

— the economic imperative of enlargement would represent a substantial increase in commercial rates to fund development in Cork City Council at the expense of Cork County Council’s rural areas;

— an extension would also raise the population of Cork City which would improve its ranking, meanwhile decrease the population in the Cork County Council area;

— there are potential challenges in implementing the National Planning Framework, including geography, scale, historic administrative boundaries, administrative structures and European Union reporting requirements; and changes to administrative boundaries may not always consider the issues that a planning framework seeks to address;

— in relation to Cork City Council, affluent areas are being brought in under the new boundary, for example, the very small village of Killumney is included in the proposal, the most obvious reason being that Dell EMC is located in this area and would provide a lot of revenue through the collection of its commercial rates;

— groups and individuals are objecting to these new boundary proposals;

— a change to boundaries would be detrimental for Cork County Council, with an estimated loss of €80 million, which comprises of losses in rates and property taxes;

— residents and farmers living in the countryside would now be regarded as city dwellers;

— businesses in the Cork County Council areas would have to become Cork City Council ratepayers;

— the Cork Local Government Implementation Oversight Group has now commenced its work; the Group has, however, indicated that it is not in a position to accept any alternative proposal that would be regarded as running contrary to the proposed broad boundary adjustment as set out in the ‘Mackinnon Report’;

— county councils are already stretched, if they are to lose more revenue they will not be able to function;

— the election of five councillors from Cork City Council and five councillors from

Cork County Council, as well as independent persons to a board serving for five years to champion the project is too long a sitting period and also means that other elected 2409 representatives will be ineffective if the board members are the decision makers;

— the detail in the compensation package on how Cork City Council plans to pay back Cork County Council is vague with no definite plan on the loan repayment;

— such plans have caused a division between Cork City Council and Cork County Council;

— no proper consultation has taken place between Cork City Council and Cork County Council, and the public; and

— the amalgamation of areas results in a decrease in services and expenditure, and also creates excessive workload on officials and elected members; and

calls on the Government to:

— ensure that these boundaries, which are the essence of who we are as a people, are protected;

— seek definite answers to what is proposed;

— examine if it is necessary to reform governance structures so that necessary services can be delivered;

— assign an independent person from abroad to facilitate and oversee negotiations between both parties;

— examine the vague compensation package offered to Cork County Council;

— explain how a ten year compensation period could be considered a sufficient timeframe;

— provide immediate clarification on the plans to protect rural areas, as there is already limited funding and future funding would be non-existent;

— explain how the National Planning Framework could be beneficial for the people living in rural Ireland;

— explain how the National Planning Framework will regenerate rural Ireland;

— assess the impact such an implementation would have on local communities;

— explain if the authors have practical knowledge of how local government services are best delivered and if such a plan would work in reality; and

— explain if an assessment has been made on the implications on service delivery or financial and resource implications.

I am very happy to be able to propose this motion and I thank my colleagues in the Rural Independent Group for supporting me in doing so. A review commissioned by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government was published last April. The report of the Expert Advisory Group on Local Government Arrangements in Cork - the Mackinnon report - was tasked with looking at the various options for the future geography for local government in Cork.

The report proposed that Cork City Council’s boundary be extended; this reform would be the one of the most significant reforms of local government structures in the history of the State. It would see the population of the city nearly double to 225,000. These changes, if implemented, would have a detrimental effect on Cork County Council areas that would now be moved into and considered as city council areas.

Through this motion, I call on the Government not to accept this Mackinnon report into the draft national planning framework for a number of reasons. First, this change will give rise to an estimated loss of €80 million to Cork County Council through commercial rates and property taxes. Cork County Council’s funding is already very stretched and this loss will leave constituents of the county council further deprived of essential infrastructure, whether roads, services and even the reduced amount of public representatives for the respective areas.

This is not a party political issue but there are considerable divisions within parties between those in favour of implementing this report and those against. This will cause a further urban-rural divide within our county councils when we should be working together. If this change was to go ahead, it would be considered as a Cork Brexit. Its consequences are not yet known and will not be fully known until it is too late. It is proposed that the county council will receive a compensation package from the city council in return for this change, but all suggestions of any possible loan repayment are far too vague to be accepted or even considered. It is sad to see that my local authority feels that the only way to negotiate any changes to this report is through the courts as the city council and the local government implementation oversight group have so far refused to accept any alternative reports or recommendations to the Mackinnon report.

In recent years, rural Ireland has been hit time and again through loss of services, facilities and its general identity. Cork County Council and its residents have lost Garda stations, post offices, social welfare offices, local court services, local pubs and businesses, the list is endless. Rural towns and villages are struggling and, if implemented, this report would have an even more negative effect in these areas.

Does the Government really want to be responsible for this? Is it not the case that in its programme for Government it promised to put in place "measures to revitalise all of Ireland so that the benefits are felt inside every doorstep and in every community."? How does the Minister think that accepting this boundary change would go in any way to reach or fulfil that promise? It is absurd that some people who have grown up and farmed in their rural areas will now be moved and considered as city dwellers. They are proud of their background and heritage and feel this proposal is a further attack on their livelihoods. Would this change even go as far as changing local GAA teams from county divisions into the city division?

This might seem like a small change but it would have a huge impact on community spirit. I have been told by Cork people, both from my own constituency of Cork South-West and from the areas on the other side of the city who would be affected by the proposal, that they are not happy. This negativity is felt on both sides of the boundary. For instance, one Glanmire resident told me that she is now represented by the county council but will be thrown into and considered as a city council resident. She was extremely concerned for the future of her beloved Glanmire and raised the issue of businesses now being hit by increased commercial rates and insurance when they are already crippled by this industry. Not only would this have a detrimental effect on the local businesses in Glanmire and similar areas but the support that these businesses give to their local communities through sponsorship of community groups would also be diminished because more of their income will go towards paying increased rates that they cannot afford.

These residents have been hit on numerous occasions by Government measures and these people feel that the Government does not like rural Ireland. Another concerned citizen that would be affected by the boundary changes was fearful that communities that receive contracts through Tús for maintenance of rural areas, effectively top-up grants for community groups, will no longer receive these contracts as their areas would no longer be considered rural areas, but rather urban areas.

Will the Minister say if such funding and contracts would stop because of the Mackinnon report if it goes ahead? The same can be asked about the town and village renewal scheme under the rural development section in the programme for Government. Will the rural areas around Ovens, Carrigtwohill, Rathpeacon and Carrigrohane now be exempt from potential funding if they are considered urban or city residents?

This is a "Yes" or "No" issue. Does the Government, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the other Independents want to see the Mackinnon report implemented in Cork or not? The amendments tabled by both the Government and Fianna Fáil are not clear. Do the rural Deputies from both parties support the implementation of the Mackinnon report or not?

I urge all Members to remember that the Mackinnon report applies to County Cork at present, but similar approaches could follow in any other rural county in the future. The amendments tabled by Fianna Fáil and the Government support the implementation of the Mackinnon report through the back door, while Sinn Féin's amendment is blatantly supporting it.

If Fianna Fáil was to make an amendment along the lines of the Bill proposed by its own Deputy, Eugene Murphy, which comes before the House this Thursday, and which seeks to have a plebiscite prior to any boundary changes, at least it would go some way towards giving democracy to the people of rural Ireland, something they feel they lost a long time ago. Proof of this was the abolition of town councils and the disbandment of community voluntary forums and local Leader groups which is now in disarray.

This is why I believe the Mackinnon report belongs in the bin.

I also speak in favour of this motion.

This is an issue which is not confined to Cork. It also relates to boundary changes in Waterford and Kilkenny regarding Ferrybank, Roscommon and Westmeath regarding Monksland, and also in Clare and Limerick. In the last case it proved a very contentious issue in 2011 when Limerick city proposed to annex a portion of south east Clare into Limerick city. A committee chaired by Denis Brosnan proposed to incorporate Shannon Banks, Westbury and the parts of Limerick University which lay on the Clare side of the river into Limerick city, including the parishes of Meelick, Parteen, Ardnacrusha and Clonlara.

Anyone familiar with Clare hurling will know that most of our senior teams which have been successful in recent years come from that area. I am sure people in those areas would not swap the saffron and blue for the green of Limerick, although I am originally from Limerick myself. These are the issues that are important to people when a boundary change is proposed and they are not to be underestimated.

Such was the opposition to this proposal that it was not politically possible to pursue it and the then Minister, Phil Hogan, decided not to act on the annexation proposal. A group called Clare Against the Boundary Change campaigned on the matter for several years and on one occasion had a rally attended by 10,000 people. That was democracy in action, when people successfully voted with their feet to oppose boundary changes. Recently the matter was proposed once again by a Sinn Féin councillor but I hope that will not happen as I had assumed the issue had been finally but to bed.

This is an issue which will arise in many areas in future. It may be the areas to which I have referred, but other areas may have boundary extensions imposed upon them. There are historical, sporting, cultural and social reasons for our existing boundaries. Boundaries should not be interfered with lightly by technocrats and bureaucrats who do not understand the significance of place in Irish society. These factors are very important to people who live in these areas. On Thursday next, I understand Deputy Eugene Murphy will introduce a Bill, the Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2017, which aims to ensure that local communities have a final say in any proposals for a county boundary change, which effectively happened in Clare six years ago. It would place a requirement on the Minister with responsibility for local government to hold a plebiscite on any boundary change that would require a majority to decide on whether a boundary change should take place. This Bill deserves close scrutiny.

Boundary changes are usually proposed by bigger authorities to annex profitable areas of smaller authorities, of course under the guise of better administration and governance. Quite often, such changes and marked out with a ruler and take no account of parish, townland or natural boundaries. This is the case as it pertains to the proposal to annex Monksland in Roscommon to Westmeath. This is counter to the ideals of balanced regional development, which is proposed and promoted in the Programme for a Partnership Government. The main impetus for boundary changes is, of course, financial and relate to commercial rates and property tax. They take from the smaller authorities, which further reduces their ability to provide services, roads, housing, infrastructure and amenities.

The justification for such boundary extensions are not well founded in many cases. I believe an alternative solution is available. Adjoining councils should work in partnership if it is to the mutual benefit of both councils in terms of service delivery and regional development. It should not be to the detriment of one council over the other. In the case of Clare County Council, annexation of south-east Clare would not in any way enhance Clare to reach its full potential. If urban expansion is at the expense of rural communities then it is against the ideal of balanced regional development. Annexation should not be an acceptable model. Meaningful co-operation and engagement would be a far better and more productive method of dealing with boundary issues, rather than annexation, and it should observe the democratic will of the people. Boundary changes are another demonstration of how the dismantling of local government removes democracy further away from the people. We should have a return to the local government structures that were dismantled in 2014. Then we could have some meaningful democratic dialogue on boundary change.

I am glad to have an opportunity to speak on this very important motion. As we look at it, it would seem it only affects Cork city and rural Cork but, by extension, if it goes ahead it will also affect people in the county I represent, because the people of south and west Kerry and the people of east Kerry have a lot of interaction and financial dealings with the people of Cork on either side of them. This is a blatant attempt to pauperise the people in rural Cork, and areas in south-west Cork and north-west Cork, and likewise in Kerry. One of the parishes I represent, and have represented for many years, is Rathmore. Parts of this great parish are actually in the county of Cork, namely, Rathduane, Knocknaloman, Hollymount, Caherbarnagh, Carrigaline and Nohoval. I would be letting down the people of that parish if I was not to support the motion.

I do not blame Mr. Mackinnon, who wrote the report, and I do not know him. I blame the people who hired him and thought of this idea to take funding away from areas that are already under savage pressure to retain their identity. The people from places like Ardgroom, Eyeries, Urhan, Allihies, Cahermore, Castletownbere itself and Adrigole and, indeed, all of Berehaven are much the same kind of people as the people I represent in Kerry. I know what they have to go through and what they have to endure to get funding. If we are to take this funding stream of up to €80 million from rates, with no account of how much property tax they will be denied, we will see more devastation and roads falling apart.

I have to say if we go from the Top of Coom to the mouth of the Glen and down into Ballingeary and Inchigeela on the way to Dunmanway, and from Toonsbridge back to Kealkill and back to Bantry, many of the roads are the very same as the day when Michael Collins was shot at the monument. Things have not improved since then and it is worse they will get if this is allowed to go through. I call on all of the Members in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, because they will do a massive wrong to the people they represent if they allow this to go ahead. I ask them to disregard the Mackinnon report and also show fair play to the people of north-west Cork, including Rockchapel, Ballydesmond, Knocknagree and Cullen, and in between we have Cúil Aodha, Ballymakeera and Kilnamartyra and, like I said, Reananeree, Kealkill and the Borlin Valley. All of these places are neglected enough as it is, but if the Government is going to do this and take this funding stream away from them, it will be what I would call the height of blackguarding.

Already we are seeing in a battle in Dublin as they are regretting giving any funding outside of the Red Cow, and that is a fact. We had them on the television the other night. My colleague, Deputy Mattie McGrath, was making his case for Tipperary, and like that, I want to make our case for Kerry and Cork, and the rural parts of the west. We hear there is no problem in the world in giving €132 million for a glorified footpath in Dublin, when the total expenditure we will get for the county of Kerry is no more than that. We are asking for fair play, and we are looking for fair play, and that is what we want, because the people that we represent are entitled to fair play and up until now they have not been getting it.

It is a battle and a fight every day to get any of the services that fall into place in urban areas. There are two places where it seems to happen no bother, because every morning when we wake up there are another 100 jobs in Dublin and 200 jobs in Cork and vice versa every second morning. All the urban areas seem to get favour but whatever is wrong, whether it is IDA Ireland or whatever other groups are supposed to be helping people in rural Ireland, it is not happening. I am asking the Government not to take this funding stream or this money that these people depend on. They are only getting a very small amount. The Minister of State can travel the areas I am speaking about, through Berehaven and mid-Cork, which is totally neglected as well, because we do not have the jobs and we cannot keep the people there. Likewise there are the poorer areas, from Cullen through Knocknagree and Ballydesmond and up into Rockchapel. Who thought of taking this away? That is the question I am asking. Who thought of this brilliant idea to hurt rural Ireland further?

I want those people to give their reasons for doing it. It will be very interesting to see who will vote for what when this motion is going through because this is one of the worst attempts I have seen that will hurt rural areas in west, south-west and north-west Cork. By extension, the people of Kerry will suffer, as I said. There is interaction by people back and forth over our own little border, as we call it. The only time we disagree may be around the first or second Sunday in July, when we are in competition with each other, but we are 100% together when it comes to defending our rights and ensuring rural areas are kept intact. This report, by Mr. Mackinnon, is a disgrace and it should be disregarded. I am not blaming the man himself because the people who put him at it and paid him to do it are the people I am angry with.

I move amendment No. 3:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

"recognises the need to put in place effective and sustainable local government arrangements in Cork and notes the action being pursued to achieve this, and further recognises the need for a National Planning Framework to set an overall long-term strategic planning framework for growth and change in Ireland, including our rural areas, building on the Action Plan for Rural Development and based on a core objective to reverse decline and create new opportunities for rural and small town growth, in terms of people, jobs and infrastructure."

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on this issue. I thank Deputy Michael Collins and his colleagues for raising it. We have not had an opportunity before in a plenary session of the Dáil to discuss this matter.

I compliment the local authority staff in Cork city and county, and indeed throughout the country, on doing such a fine job yesterday and today and who are doing so tonight as we speak - before, during and after Storm Ophelia. It is often only when things go wrong that local government gets coverage. In this case, however, the local authorities have done a fine job and I compliment them on their work.

On the issues raised by Deputy Michael Collins and his colleagues, I assure the House that I am not personally in favour of such things as land grabs or money grabs.

The proposals contained in the Mackinnon report are now part of a process put in place by the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. An implementation group is in place and it involves representatives of Cork city and county councils.

I am interested in the motion in that this is the first time I have heard public comments from any group to the effect that the local government arrangement in Cork should remain as it is, and that the status quo is desirable. Half of the city of Cork is in the jurisdiction of Cork County Council. For the provision of services at local authority level and to be representative of the communities they serve, the status quo cannot remain in place. That is not to say some of the issues raised here are not legitimate concerns. Deputy Collins raised the issue of funding committed and asked whether it will be honoured. Yes, it will. Deputy Harty raised the possibility of other boundary extensions. There is no current proposal on Limerick and Clare. The Deputy mentioned Ferrybank, an area with which I am acutely familiar. Reference was made to the Waterford-Kilkenny boundary. Roscommon was mentioned, in addition to Louth-Meath and Carlow-Laois, where resolutions will be brought in the next few weeks in light of the result of the Mackinnon review group, which we are discussing tonight.

In my role as Minister of State, I welcome the opportunity to have this discussion. The Government's Putting People First - Action Programme for Effective Local Government, which was the platform for the wide-ranging reform programme for local government implemented in 2014, set out an ambitious vision for local government to be "the main vehicle of governance and public service at local level - leading economic, social and community development, delivering efficient and good value services, and representing citizens and local communities effectively and accountably". There is scope for improvements to the new structures in light of the experience of the past five years, however. In accordance with A Programme for a Partnership Government, the Department is preparing a comprehensive report for the Government and the Oireachtas on potential measures to boost local government leadership and accountability. This report will comprise a number of elements, including proposals relating to local authority structures and governance. This will address the issue of boundaries, having regard to the various reviews that have been undertaken in recent years. I assure the House that the report to the Government and Oireachtas will address various issues that are touched on in the Fianna Fáil counter-motion, including the question of metropolitan governance, which is the substantive matter underlying the concept of an office of directly elected mayor.

Work on the development of proposals for the report to the Government and Oireachtas is well advanced, and one important module of the document is already the subject of consultation with the Association of Irish Local Government and the County and City Management Association. This deals with municipal governance and the issues of local electoral areas and town councils, as referred to in the programme for Government. The Department is arranging for discussions with the Association of Irish Local Government with a view to finalising the consultation process on this aspect at an early date. Other elements of the draft report will be issued for consultation very soon.

On the specific issue of boundaries, it is important to bear in mind that the decision on the alteration of any local authority boundary rests ultimately with the Oireachtas, either through confirmation of an order under Part V of the Local Government Act 1991, after the procedures set out in that Act have been complied with, or by enactment of primary legislation, as appropriate. Deputy Collins stated Cork County Council has spoken about taking the legal route. It has also taken the 1991 Act route. That process is under way, in addition to the Mackinnon process. That allows for neighbouring authorities to agree themselves on a boundary. Furthermore, Cork County Council has actually made a submission to extend the city boundary into the county area. Therefore, it is not as if the legal route is the only show in town, as implied in the Deputy's comments. What I describe is actually being considered by Cork County Council and it has made a very definitive proposal in that regard.

A process of engagement with the other local authority concerned must be undertaken, following which application may be made to the Minister for an order altering the boundary, which, unlike most statutory instruments, requires the positive approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas by the passing of a resolution by each approving the draft order.

Regarding the boundary between Cork city and county, I would like to make clear that no final decisions have been made at this point. Deputies will be aware that a local government committee was established in 2015 by the then Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to carry out a review of local government arrangements in Cork, and to make recommendations as to whether the boundary between the city and county should be altered or whether Cork City Council and Cork County Council should be unified. The committee recommended, on a majority basis, amalgamation of the two authorities, accompanied by measures such as devolution of functions to a unified Cork authority and strengthening of municipal district functions, in preference to extension of the city boundary, which was proposed and recommended by a minority on the committee.

In view of the lack of consensus on the issue, a Cork local government expert advisory group was established by the former Minister, Deputy Coveney, to advise on relevant options in regard to future local government arrangements for Cork, having regard particularly to the 2015 review. It recommended, in April 2017, the extension of the city boundary rather than local authority merger, while acknowledging the merit of a unified authority, including efficiencies potentially in the order of 2% to 5% over time. An oversight group was established in July 2017 to oversee arrangements for the alteration of the boundary, in light of the advisory group's recommendations, in accordance with a detailed implementation plan to be formulated by the group.

Subsequently, Cork County Council exercised its entitlement to initiate a proposal for the alteration of the boundary under Part V of the Local Government Act 1991. As this proposal is the subject of a statutory process, which may lead to an application for ministerial decision, it would not be appropriate for me comment on the boundary alteration proposals. However, it is reasonable to record that there is general agreement that retention of the status quo in Cork local government structures is unsustainable. Indeed, both the minority and majority groups in 2015 were at one on this point, while recommending different solutions. I emphasise, however, the key role that the two local authorities in Cork must play in agreeing boundary proposals. In conveying the terms of reference of the Cork oversight group to the chief executives of the two authorities, the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, specifically pointed out that it would fall to them to develop detailed and comprehensive proposals for the boundary alteration. I do not regard the non-statutory role of the oversight group as conflicting with the process under the 1991 Act. Indeed, the work of the group could support the operation of that process by helping to achieve agreement on boundary proposals that could be progressed through the 1991 Act process.

There has been a lot of speculation in the media about financial consequences arising from a possible boundary change.

As already stated, I cannot comment on specific aspects of the alteration proposals for Cork. Let me make it clear, however, that any boundary change must be predicated on sound financial due diligence and arrangements in order to ensure that no local authority would be left in an untenable position in the event of a boundary alteration. The approach taken in the various previous local authority boundary alterations has been to make provision for arrangements designed to achieve a broadly neutral outcome in terms of resources. I would also like to dispel any concern that the national planning framework might lead to any changes to local authority boundaries in Cork or anywhere else. The impression in that regard, which seems to be conveyed in the motion, is completely without foundation. The motion also seems to portray the national planning framework as anti-rural, which is entirely erroneous. The draft national planning framework, which is to be considered by the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government, will support the future development of the country as a whole, both rural and urban areas, in an integrated manner.

I thank the Deputies for raising this matter. I will take note of the input of Deputies as we progress the report on local government under the programme for Government. I look forward to future engagement with the House in that regard. I am sure such engagement will take place. However, it would not be appropriate to pre-empt consideration by Government and the Oireachtas of various local government matters in advance of formal submission or to prejudice in any way the statutory processes which are under way in Cork. It is for this reason that the Government has proposed an amendment. I will conclude by reiterating that the most important factor in achieving effective and appropriate local government arrangements in Cork is the exercise of leadership and goodwill on the part of both local authorities, working to achieve an outcome that will be in the best interests of Cork and its communities - in the city and the county - which, no doubt, is the desire of all concerned here as well.

We move now to the Fianna Fáil slot. There are 20 minutes. Deputy Shane Cassells will commence and then, I understand, there is an internal arrangement. In such circumstances, the relevant speakers must exercise self-discipline. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I join the Minister of State in praising the staff who worked so tirelessly in recent days. He is correct in what he said. County Meath was not as badly hit as some other counties but the staff were exceptional nonetheless and I praise them for that.

Local government is an issue that is extremely close to my heart. It is of great importance to me, as spokesperson, and to my party because of the positive impact proper local government can have on people's lives. The fact that there have been debates on different aspects of local government by means of motions and Bills is very positive and is to be welcomed. I pay tribute to the Rural Independent Alliance for bringing forward this motion because all of the signatories are those of men of conviction and substance who know the value and importance of proper local government in this country.

The biggest problem is that we do not have proper local government in this country. We do not have a fully accountable local government system, certainly not one that anyone in Europe or the United States of America would understand. I know that from welcoming many European local government public representatives to County Meath. They simply cannot get their heads around the overarching reach of central government, the power of the Customs House and the powers of county and city managers over our system. That is no slight on the work of any civil servant, public servant or county or city manager - these people are the finest of men and women - it is a comment on the system, which bestows such an amount of executive power on individuals who are not elected by the people they represent, and the fact that communities in towns and counties throughout the country are expanding. I find that totally against the very essence of good local democracy. If anyone can tell me that I am wrong, he or she would want to have a long hard look at himself or herself. That is the system we have and that we persist with, and we call it democracy.

I spent 17 years as a councillor and I saw a lot of positive advances in the system. I entered local government in 1999, when Deputies were no longer allowed to be councillors and when there were powers available. It is one of the greatest disgraces that the so-called reforms introduced by the former Minister, Phil Hogan, did nothing but undermine the local government system. We set the clock back even further. We moved democracy even further away from the people we represent, destroyed town councils and spread electoral areas into constituencies that resemble Dáil constituencies in size. That is not democracy. I do not like to hear people defend those electoral areas, particularly as they have no statutory powers when it comes to the setting of rates, no statutory town budgets and no ability to raise the type of finance they could raise in the past when town councils ran surpluses. Now, counties are running up debts. The powers to which I refer are those that define whether there is proper local governance.

I despair of the current system. We should seek to bring proper local government back into place so that, as the Minister of State said, when things go right, as well as wrong, we can have people to praise as well as to criticise. Unlike the position in Europe or the US, people do not have a central port of call in which they can have confidence in terms of an administration they can call their own. People in France and Italy can immediately tell me the name of their local mayor, who has the power to appoint a mini-cabinet for the running of his or her town. If one asks a similar question as one walks around a town in Ireland, people do not know the name of the county or city manager - an individual who has so much power. One can use that as a litmus test as to whether we have a democracy that is fully accountable.

The motion before us relates to the detrimental effect of the extension of city boundaries on rural areas. However, when one reads through it, one can see that it primarily relates to Cork. The motion refers to the national planning framework and how it seems to imply that changes to county boundaries are a distinct possibility. I agree with those who proposed the motion because I fully believe that the national planning framework could end up serving to make things worse, not better, for areas of the country outside Dublin.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae spoke about how 200 and 300 jobs are being created in urban areas every day. That is not the case in my county or in many others. This is primarily happening in Dublin rather than in the large urban settlements that have developed in other parts of the country. Half of the population of County Meath is commuting to Dublin city centre each day, which is making matters worse in terms of infrastructure. The overall situation is getting worse. I had meetings with IDA Ireland earlier today and I have met enterprise boards and others in an attempt to redress matters but the capital plans are fighting against us. We are not being given a chance to try to redress the situation. The national planning framework is working hand in glove with the capital plan whereby one will inform the other so that we will not get the kind of proper infrastructural development, on the basis of a critical mass, that will allow areas to grow and realise their potential. The lack of rail infrastructure or health facilities in my county tells me all I need to know about the failure of the capital plan to deliver for my county.

I have looked at many of the boundary issues that have arisen, including that in Cork, which we are discussing, and the one in Galway. I have spoken to people on all sides. I am totally against the amalgamation of city and county councils. However, I do think Cork city should be allowed to grow. We need to strengthen bases to ensure that there is proper local governance. I am an advocate of proper local governance and I feel just as strongly about the position in Galway. I have looked at the issue there in terms of enterprise zones, roads, etc. I have also spoken to the executives in the county. The amalgamation of local authorities and the changing of boundaries have the potential to undermine local democracy. However, there are opportunities there as well that need to be examined.

Fianna Fáil has put forward reform policies under a local government regulator to oversee the reforms, make recommendations and provide independent comparisons. Our representatives in Dublin have called for directly-elected mayors to champion city areas similar to London, New York or Barcelona. The Minister of State is aware of my proposals on town councils. I was disappointed to hear his comments to the effect that he will not seek to reintroduce town councils. Such councils are the only way to have proper, full local governance.

We have an amendment which we will be pressing. I refer to amendment No. 2. I will allow my other colleagues to speak on the matter now.

I join my colleagues in acknowledging the tremendous work that council staff have been carrying out throughout the area yesterday and today in cleaning up and working with people. It is phenomenal work and I wish to acknowledge that. Teastaíonn uaim labhairt faoin rún tábhachtach seo toisc go bhfuil an oiread sin baol ann go gcuirfear isteach ar Bhaile an Chollaigh agus ar cheantair in iarthar Chorcaí nuair atá an teorainn á shíneadh amach.

I believe an arbitrary decision to force the areas around the edge of the city into the city is not the solution to address the challenges facing the city and the county. This is a concern for people around the edges in Ballincollig and Ballinora and Ovens, for example, as well as further west in Ballingeary, over to Coolea and right back throughout west Cork. In these areas people believe that they would not have these resources stripped away from them if the edge of the city and its rate base was not part of the county.

However, it is vital to recognise the status quo is not going to stay. Both sides need to sit down and come to an agreement because we are going nowhere at present. This is undermining both city and county and the current hiatus is a threat to Cork. The sooner the Minister of State gets people from city and county working towards a solution, the better. The implementation group is clearly ignoring the need for consensus. Although the city council and departmental officials seems to be treating the Mackinnon report as the only show in town, the county council has acknowledged there will be a boundary change and has put forward its own proposal. To be fair, there is widespread consensus throughout the county that there should be some change. The Minister of State needs to look more closely at the county council's proposed changes.

There should be public consultation too. People believe strongly that their views need to be taken into consideration and there is great concern at the lack of consultation.

I understand that the Cabinet visited Cork only last week. It was a major missed opportunity not to avail of the occasion to meet people locally from right around those areas and to hear first-hand their concerns. I will leave it to my colleagues now. There needs to be discussion.

Nine minutes remain in the slot.

I will be brief. I will make one point regarding the motion. The first line should be amended. It states: "there is an attempt by agencies in the private sector and State bodies to encroach on the county boundaries". Academics should be included in that list. Members will be aware of where I am coming from with that comment with regard to some of the proposed changes in Cork city and county.

I served for a number of years in local government. I will be honest: I was happy with the original proposal from Phil Hogan for the abolishment of town councils. I thought it was a step in the right direction, because I believed that in rural Ireland and in towns there was a discrepancy with regard to the balance of power and spending. The Minister destroyed all the positive aspects of that when he diluted the representation in the areas. Now, we have little representation.

As I said earlier, I have a parochial issue that is totally at odds with the Mackinnon report. It is a total reversal of the original Smiddy report. I believe the process has gone from a democratic process to a political one. There is no logic or thought-out plan. We do not know whether a rugby ball, a cricket ball or a sponge was used to draw the line around Cork city.

It was a sliotar.

For example, Cobh is a major town in east Cork. I remember a colleague going on about how the only access to Cobh was by the Fota road, which is badly in need of an upgrade. Under the proposal to add Carrigtwohill, Cobh would become more isolated. It was an insult to the people of Great Island in east Cork. I hope the Minister of State will give serious consideration to the whole process. He should conclude fairly that Cork County Council has always functioned efficiently, economically and for the good of housing and economic development.

I would go so far as to say that I am disappointed. We have seen some of these troubles elsewhere in Europe, where airports have been taken from us. I believe it is a form of sedition, when we see airports being taken from the rural hinterland of Cork and put into the city. I am disappointed to see all these places taken from us. I still consider myself to be a loyal former member of Cork County Council. I admit its role has been diminished through local government reform throughout the years. I will leave it to the rest.

I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate because I believe it is of vital importance. This issue has created a major divide within Cork city and county. Major challenges have surfaced to try to bring an agreed solution. The status quo will not remain but what will be put in its place? How effective will the new plan be to serve all the citizens of Cork city and county?

I come from a rural part of Cork. We have seen some of the discussions, announcements and plans relating to Cork and so forth. It is all built around the major city of Cork and its environs. I live 46 miles from the city and such areas have a major contribution to make to Irish society in future. The planning laws and regulations in force at present are responsible for the difficulties people have in trying to set up home in these places. Their fear is that all the power and population will be sucked into the greater hinterland around Cork city and one sees the divisions that have been created in this regard. Lines are being drawn without any consultation. Surely to God, in 2017, we are not going to impose a division between Cork city and county without an agreement or as much agreement as is humanly possible for the greater good of the citizens of Cork city and county.

We have seen many of the discussions in recent months and the acrimony and challenges that arose. There is a bright future for all parts of Cork city and county if this is properly planned. All we see at the moment is a drive to plan the greater metropolitan Cork area while leaving the rural areas aside. What will happen if we allow these plans to go ahead? What will be left? We saw the plans that went into the great expansion of Dublin. Let us consider the areas one hour outside Dublin, for example, Athlone or Carlow. They are within a one-hour drive of Dublin. They have been hollowed out of business because the businesses have been sucked into the capital. This is the concern I have in respect of growing a massive city in Cork. Are we going to hollow out towns like Mallow, Kanturk, Millstreet, Newmarket or Charleville? Are these places going to be completely forgotten? What happens if we go through with the same policy as that used for Dublin and suck the life out of the places around the city? Is that what we are now doing in Cork? We need to be careful as we proceed. Surely to God in 2017 we are not going to impose a division between Cork city and county that does not have the agreement of the vast majority of the citizens of the county. It is high time that proper arbitration was put in place to try to get an agreed settlement.

I thank Deputy Michael Collins and his colleagues for putting down this motion, which is particularly timely. The overall point I wish to make about Cork is that every effort should be made to reach agreement between the two authorities. I welcome the comments of the Minister of State in that regard.

Sometimes politicians forget that people are far more concerned about services than boundaries. Equally, I accept and support the need for the boundary of Cork city to be extended. There are clear anomalies already in Togher, Douglas and Rochestown, areas that are contiguous with the city and that are altogether urban and built up. They need to be within Cork city. However, I believe the extension of the city needs to go beyond that and provide scope for further development of Cork city in the years ahead.

There is a need for the overall strategic decisions that have to be made for Cork city and the greater Cork city area, metropolitan Cork or whatever one might call it, to be worked on jointly by both authorities on the key issues of economic development, long-term planning, having a tourism strategy and also the prioritisation of transport projects. There is often not enough work done on a joint basis. The Government needs to formalise that and ensure it is done. Both authorities are going to have to be willing to compromise if this is going to work out. We need progress on this and we need it quickly, and we need to have buy-in from both authorities ultimately because, when all of this is over and the dust settles, both authorities in Cork will have to work together in the spirit of co-operation into the future.

I disagree with my good colleague, Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe, about town councils. I was a member of Passage West Town Council for eight years. It was a former town commission as opposed to a former urban district council so it had very little power but it brought a focus to the town and ensured that every month, issues were raised, senior officials had to attend and they had to come back and account the following month for what they did or did not do on those issues. Some of the municipal districts we have are so large that quite large urban centres get lost as part of that process. Democracy should operate at as local a level as possible and, in my view, the restoration of town councils, though in a reformed, more modern and meaningful way, would be a great enhancement of the local democratic structures in this country.

I thank Deputy Michael Collins for tabling this motion. Time is of the essence for Cork because there are many existing councillors and prospective candidates who want to start planning. I urge them to come together, be willing to compromise and reach an agreement.

I am sharing time with Deputy Pat Buckley. I join the Minister of State and my colleagues in paying tribute to the staff of Cork County Council and Cork City Council for the extraordinary work they did and are still doing in very difficult circumstances. I firmly believe that they have been doing extraordinary work with very tight budgets over a number of years and they certainly deserve our thanks over recent days. Ordinarily, it would be something of a luxury to have two hours to discuss a Corkman's favourite subject, which is-----

-----Cork. Unfortunately, on this occasion, it clashes with Cork City Football Club potentially winning the league, so it is a pity that Deputy Collins could not have-----

It did not manage it the last time.

-----arranged a better occasion for this debate.

First, I want to address the sense in some media commentary and debates between city and county that there is an enormous dissonance between the city and county. I do not believe there is. I believe that a solution is possible. I believe that the amendment I tabled, on which I consulted my Sinn Féin county and city councillor colleagues as well as our other two party Deputies from the county in developing it, and which is to a broad extent what is outlined in the Mackinnon report, is a basis for progress. It is worth setting the context here that we were dealing with this issue two years ago. It is ongoing, and while I am entirely for resolving it through dialogue, it is worth noting that dialogue has not resolved this issue over the past 15 years. It is not a new issue and has been ongoing for some time. It is only now that I think we are beginning to realise the importance of this decision.

We were dealing with a merger proposal. I said when I was a councillor on Cork County Council and I say it again here that the merger proposal would have been disastrous. It would have constrained the growth of the city and it would make no sense whatsoever for a major city like that not to have independent local government of its own. The districts such as those that Deputy Collins represents, including Schull and Adrigole, would not have benefited either from an enormous so-called local authority for a population of 500,000 that would still, even in an unfocused way, have been driven largely from the centre. That proposal was wrong and I still believe it is wrong. We are now in a space where two things are very clear for me and two things are agreed between local authorities. The first is that there should be a two-local-authority solution. That is absolutely the correct model. It is in the interests of the city, rural areas and our county towns to have independent local government. I also believe, as has been stated by the Minister of State and some Fianna Fáil Deputies, that the status quo is utterly unsustainable and, frankly, madness.

I grew up in a neighbourhood called Togher. I went to primary and secondary school in the city. I played GAA in the city and soccer in the county and I was elected to the county council. I represented probably the most urban county council district in the entire country, perhaps, outside of the three in Dublin. It is an overwhelmingly urban district. There is no sense in the vast bulk of that being in a county council. It was a complete anomaly. There were county councillors there who, until I was elected, did not even realise that Togher was in the county. The status quo is utterly unsustainable and needs to be addressed. It dates from a time when Rochestown was a sleepy village on the way to Passage West. It is 50 or 60 years old and clearly needs to be addressed.

The manner in which the city and its suburbs will develop over the next 30 or 40 years is already relatively clear. We already have a fairly clear sense of what it will involve. I want to emphasise suburbs. The towns outside the city, as they are properly called, are clearly under urban influence and I believe they can and must retain their own identity within an urban and metropolitan council. It is clear that for the city, its suburbs and its outlying towns, the major development that will happen will be to the west of the city, towards Ballincollig, Carrigrohane, Blarney and Tower, and to the east of the city, towards Carrigtwohill. Those communities need to be consulted, but whatever local authority is governing those areas, they will develop enormously and be transformed, and the county council will do that just as well as the city council. They will be transformed beyond recognition and I hope it will be in a positive way, but that will not be any different, whether it is city or county. The most important thing is that they are well planned and planned in a co-ordinated, sustainable way that is in the interests of those communities. That is the shape of the region regardless of whether we keep the status quo.

There are issues to address and I recognise that. Our amendment proposes that the Cork economic development and planning board needs to take in the whole county. It is currently only talking about the metropolitan area, so if we are talking about co-operation between two local authorities in a new era of efficiencies and good co-operation, then why not do that over the whole county rather than just the metropolitan area? It needs to be more democratically representative. There is also the issue of finance. This is the key and is central to everything, including the point of services as opposed to specific boundaries. The concerns expressed by representatives in west Cork, east Cork and north Cork can be met if the financial package that is agreed can be done properly. I suggest what is contained in our amendment. An economic development and planning board that would be responsible for the whole county would have a permanent function for the redistribution of finance throughout the county. That is the fairest model to ensure those rural parts of Cork and major towns outside the city area can be financially sustainable and have the services they need delivered to them. It is important also that the city council, whatever the boundary may be, develops a strong strategy for recognising and developing towns and villages, including villages within its existing boundary, such as Blackpool and Cork.

It needs to take on that job.

I recommend the amendment. We need to move forward on the basis of dialogue, but also on the basis of a long-term vision for Cork. It needs to develop as a significant counterbalance, although complementary, to Dublin. To do that, we need to make the right decisions now for the next 20 to 40 years.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak tonight.

We might get Deputy Healy-Rae a Cork passport. I have one - they were given out a number of years ago. It goes to show how big is Cork county.

I acknowledge that Cork city has long outgrown its 1965 boundary. I also acknowledge, however, that a merger of both the city and county councils would not be in the best interests of the city, the county and the peripheral areas. It is a no-brainer. It will not be possible.

It seems many issues have got lost in the media over the past number of months. One of these issues was the possibility of changes to the city boundary. Deputy O'Keeffe mentioned Cobh, and Carrigtwohill was also mentioned. The boundary has never been drawn because there has been no dialogue on it.

As Deputy Ó Laoghaire stated, the main issue is that it has to be brought forward on the basis of a two-local-authority model. In addition, Cork City Council and Cork County Council will have to sit down together, have a meaningful discussion on this and ensure that both councils are financially sustainable. They must also ensure that this is done, as the Deputy stated, on a permanent basis. We do not need compensation for ten years. It is fantasy. It must go on all the time.

Another issue is that more power must be given to district councils. It is shameful that the town councils were abolished because it killed local democracy. Now we are looking at a model of oligarchy - government by a few - and that is not good.

It is time that both the city and county councils sat down together and did the right thing for the whole county. It is not about pitting the city council against the county council, as some of the media reports suggest, rather that it is just not working. We have to ensure that the whole county, as the individual county of Cork, is the economic driver where both councils work in tandem. This means Cork city, east Cork, west Cork and north Cork pulling together and promoting the one Cork brand.

I also pay tribute to my local authority, Limerick City and County Council, for the work it did dealing with Hurricane Ophelia, in particular, getting the river defences up the day before to prevent water coming into various parts of the city.

The debate tonight reminds me of a former Fine Gael Deputy from west Cork, P. J. Sheehan, who made a famous speech here one night where he named every single townland in west Cork. Many great places have been named tonight in this debate, which I suppose goes to show how tribal we all are. With due respect to the former US President, Bill Clinton, who told us today when he was getting his honorary doctorate that we should not be as tribal, we are such in Ireland. That is just the reality.

There is nothing wrong with that.

This stirs up strong feelings.

Bill Clinton was not always right.

I cannot support the original motion because of the first sentence, which calls on the Government to "ensure that these boundaries, which are the essence of who we are as a people, are protected". Cities grow; they do not stand still. I will tell a story, which may be a myth, but it is a commonly known story in Limerick about a fellow called Seán an Scuab. He was a chimney sweep - Deputy Harty probably knows this story - and somebody was stupid enough to say that the next person to come in from Clare over Thomond Bridge would become mayor of Limerick. The first person to come over the bridge was this chimney sweep called Seán an Scuab. The reason I tell this story is because the boundary of Limerick at that time was Thomond Bridge. If anybody knows where that is, the boundary has extended a couple of times way beyond that since then.

We recently went through the same process as Cork is currently going through where the city proposed extending the boundary and the county opposed it. Clare also opposed it. One point in the motion about bringing in an independent person probably is a good idea because although one might not call him totally independent, Denis Brosnan was brought in and he eventually proposed a merger of Limerick city and county, but with Clare left out. Incidentally, that was not my position. I wanted an extension of the city, but with a plebiscite for the Clare part of it. The decision was to merge Limerick city and county, but I accept that Cork is very different. It is a much bigger county than Limerick. I was not in favour of what was proposed in Limerick at the time, but it has worked fairly well. There was co-operation and people worked together for the greater good once the decision was made. As an aside, I wish Deputy Ó Laoghaire well tonight in winning the league but I am pleased that Limerick stopped them from winning it two weeks ago.

Deputy Michael McGrath and others made the point that there needs to be dialogue and some kind of financial discussions about what would be appropriate. There also needs to be discussion, as others have said, about where the boundaries should be because it is probably right to say that they should not extend to the separate villages and towns that are outside the greater urban area.

My main point is that cities simply cannot stay the way they are forever. They grow and they expand. In Limerick, suburbs such as Raheen, Dooradoyle, the UL university hospital, the University of Limerick itself and Castletroy - the biggest suburbs around Limerick - were all in the county until the merger happened. That just was not sustainable. Cities have to be given the possibility to grow. There will always be differences, but I hope they can work out something that is agreeable to people in Cork. Not everyone will agree, but there has to be much more discussion.

I agree that there should be a sub-county tier of local government that is different from the municipal authorities. That issue certainly needs to be revisited. It cannot be what were the old town councils. In my area, there was no town council in Limerick, despite having large villages and towns such as Newcastle West, Abbeyfeale and Castleconnell, whereas there were much smaller places in other counties that had town councils. However it is done, it must be in a way that includes a definition of a town. That cannot be as arbitrary as it was in the past. This is something that needs to be revisited.

Regarding the importance of the expected national planning framework, drafts have been published and there have been discussions, but it is important for the country that we have proper planning and that we rebalance Ireland. We must ensure that the rural parts of Ireland are looked after as well as the urban parts. The rebalancing, in particular, between Dublin and the rest of the country, has to happen. This does not get a significant amount of debate but it really needs to be thoroughly discussed.

In the context of rebalancing the rest of the country with Dublin, I welcome the announcement last week about the M20 between Cork and Limerick. It is very much needed. The only question I would have is that the sum mentioned was only for the next phase of planning. Significant amounts will be required, particularly for land acquisition and then for the full construction of the road, the cost of which has been estimated at anywhere between €800 million and €1 billion. I do not know exactly how much will be in the capital plan, but we need a commitment from the Government that this will not just go through the planning and design phase and there will be real cash on the table to progress it further. If the second and third cities of the Republic are not properly connected, we will not see the kind of rebalancing of the country that we require. If this road is completed, we will have a link from Cork to Limerick to Galway, and further on up along the west, that I hope will be a proper motorway to allow economic and social development.

I look forward to seeing the full detail of the capital plan and to debating it here. I hope we will devote as much time to debating the national planning framework as we have done to some other issues that we have debated here, week after week, because it will make an enormous difference to the future of the country. It is a debate in which, where possible, all political parties should engage without involving any partisan politics.

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate. The Labour Party cannot support the main motion before the House but there are certainly very good elements in both it and the various amendments that have been proposed to it.

I start by thanking the staff of Cork City Council and Cork County Council who have been involved in the clean-up operation following Storm Ophelia. They have done tremendous work. I wish to note on the record of the House that it is very important councils are compensated, euro for euro and cent for cent, for the work they are doing and that central Government does not leave them to dig out funds from their own budgets for that work. I will be watching that one very carefully.

I welcome the fact that this issue is being debated in the Dáil tonight. It has played out as a local dispute but it is, of course, a national issue. First and foremost, this is not about Cork city and county; it is about Dublin and the rest of the country. Our capital has a population of more than 1 million but the next largest city, Cork, has a population of approximately 125,000. This massive imbalance is very unhealthy for the country as a whole. The imbalance will not be resolved by one boundary change, or even three or four changes for that matter. We need to have proper regional development backed up with investment. That said, a boundary change which would increase the population of Cork city from 125,000 to 225,000 is a positive step towards redressing the massive imbalance in the country. It is also a recognition of reality.

There has not been a boundary change for Cork city for more than 50 years, since 1965. As the current lord mayor of Cork city has pointed out, what has developed in the absence of a boundary change for more than 50 years is a necklace of suburbs and satellite towns around the city which are outside the city limits but, in effect, are part of the city itself. These satellite towns and suburbs, including places like Blarney, Glanmire, Little Island, Donnybrook, Douglas, Grange, Frankfield and elsewhere, are part of the Mackinnon proposals for an expanded city with an expanded boundary. These are areas which have far more in common with the likes of Turners Cross and Dublin Hill than they have with the likes of Drimoleague and Kanturk. That is just the reality and what Mackinnon does is simply recognise that reality and act on it.

The debate has focused, in large measure, on lines on maps, boundaries, territory and so on and there has been an absence of political and social content, which must change. Certainly that is something that Solidarity would seek to do. The key issue for people in Cork city and county, as it is in most of the rest of the country, is housing and the housing crisis. That crisis is at its sharpest in Dublin city, where rents and levels of homelessness are highest, but it is also acute in parts of Cork county and it is increasingly acute in Cork city too. Big employers, including multinational companies, are complaining publicly about the fact that when workers are drawn into the city to work in their enterprises, there is a major problem with finding basic accommodation at the moment. A senior official of Cork City Council, Mr. Pat Ledwidge, appeared before an Oireachtas committee recently and spoke about the scarcity of development land within the existing city boundaries. That fact is sometimes used by the bureaucrats in Cork City Council and the establishment parties within the council as an excuse for not acting on housing when there are things that could and should be done, even as things stand. Leaving aside the land in the control of the port authority, there is land in the docklands area in the hands of other State and semi-State bodies on which 3,000 houses could be built. I am referring to the likes of the old Ford site, some of the former ESB lands, the site owned by Iarnród Éireann, Howard Holdings land and so on. Some of these sites are in the direct control of NAMA. The State should charge NAMA with building social and affordable housing and put the necessary finance at its disposal. That being said, there is a scarcity of development land within the city boundary and one of the main positives of the extension is that it provides more land that can be used for housing in an expanded city. That is something that is clearly very much needed at the moment.

There needs to be a realistic and serious tone to this debate but many of the opponents of the changes are using wild and hysterical language. Councillor Bob Ryan of Fianna Fáil said recently, "If this document was produced under British rule, it would have brought about a revolution, and it should." Deputy Michael Collins has spoken about the decimation of rural communities and suggested that the extension would have consequences that are every bit as far-reaching for rural Cork as Brexit is for Ireland. It does not-----


It does not come anywhere near Brexit in terms of consequences and the fact that exaggerations of that kind are thrown into the debate is an indication of the weakness of some of the arguments being made.

I am a supporter of strong social services in rural communities. I have been completely opposed to all the cutbacks, unlike some of the Deputies who are proposing the motion. I believe that what the county loses in terms of rates support and other income sources should be compensated for, euro for euro and cent for cent, and even more than that. The areas that are to be ceded to the city generate €86 million in local property tax and commercial rates, with €46 million spent in those areas. That is a €40 million gap and the proposal is for €40 million, year on year, for the next period of time. On top of that, in both Cork county and city, we should see a reversal of all of the cuts of recent years so we do not just defend and maintain the services that are there but are in a position to expand and develop them further.

Just before I call Deputy Fitzmaurice, in an effort to unite the Corkonians, I would like to inform the House that the result is nil all.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I remember when there was talk of Galway city and county coming together and, at first, I thought it might be a good thing. Then I went trawling through the different ups and downs, the changing of borders in different areas and so forth, and I changed my mind. County councils in most counties are struggling for money. They are starved of funds and every time we give another bit to the golden goose, that is, the city, the county council suffers more. Unfortunately, that is the reality. I speak as someone who comes from the periphery of a county, an area that straddles two county borders.

Sadly, the councils in the cities tend to forget that people in these areas even exist. I understand that cities will expand, and there is no point saying that they will not. There is no reason, however, that city and county councils cannot work together on planning matters, which are obviously the most important thing here. There can be joined-up thinking on this while allowing each side its own identity.

On the subject of cities expanding, Galway city needs a ring road. There have been objections, the whole thing has been brought to the European Court and the city has been stalled. Every city needs to look at the amount of land within the city itself which is idle and not being built on. I see this in Galway, for example, out at the back of the train station and in around the docks. There are several places, and Deputy Grealish will be familiar with them, that have not been built upon even as people talk about having to go further outside the city limits. Economically speaking, the first thing that needs to be done is to use the land nearest the city centre and then work out. When it can be shown that every single perch of ground has been used, then different ideas can be considered. Not one city in this country, including the one we are in now, has done this. They have all gone sprawling out and new suburbs were built, but the reality is that hundreds of acres have been left idle in most of our cities with nothing happening on them. It is a sad thing.

Revenue is also a huge worry. Like every other Deputy, I often talk to those in the county councils about roads and so forth and I saw recently that Galway County Council passed a motion that Oranmore would get 25% of the funding. This money will probably never come, but whether it will or will not, Oranmore is being given priority. It seems to be that it is okay to have good roads in and around the city, but that out the country, a person can get a puncture or get buried in a pothole and what about it. This is not the way it should be. People from all different parts of the country should have proper access to proper roads. This includes ring roads for every city, which I am fully in favour of, proper infrastructure and proper public transport. This should all be catered for rather than jumping the gun, having everybody driving in all directions and not tightening up the city. We found out one thing and we should learn from our past experiences. When we decided to let some of the lovely fancy shops that came into this country establish themselves outside of towns, we saw the drastic effect it had on the SMEs, the small shops and businesses, in the middle of towns. That is the first thing we should learn from.

One thing I forgot to mention earlier is that while we are good at giving out about things, yesterday, in fairness, council workers were out working hard in every county in Ireland. I might question why they were not let out earlier, of course, but that was a health and safety matter. Whatever people's opinions might be on the water services, their staff did the same. What the ESB achieved in dealing with yesterday's problems, which arose through the fault of nobody, is a credit to its staff. We need to recognise the work of the front-line service staff who went out yesterday and are still out today in the aftermath of the storm.

Politicians are jumping the gun on this and coming out with report after report about the things we are going to do. We are going to amalgamate city and county councils, we are going to move the boundaries out, or we are going to do x, y and z. Let us look at Dublin, which has powered ahead of the rest of the cities in this country. The first thing we have to do is put infrastructure in place. I welcome the €20 million that has been promised to the Cork to Mallow road. It is needed because, as another Deputy pointed out earlier, it will also join up Limerick and Galway, and this is a good thing. There are other parts of the country, however, on which there is no loudspeaker. The west is one such example. Castlebar needs a road to Mullingar as there is no point bringing people up through every small town in the countryside. Galway needs its outer ring road, the N59. These are not in our areas. This is not parish pump stuff. We need a new road from where the motorway finishes up to Knock airport and then on to Donegal. We need this now more than ever before because anyone heading out of Tuam at the moment will hit the motorway if they need to take a plane and this, I believe, will cause Knock airport to suffer. We need to bring not lopsided development, but balanced regional developments to every part of this country. There is no point in being delusional about this. It will certainly cost money. If we are cute enough, however, we could borrow upfront. Building a new road is an investment for 100 years and not for five or ten or 20 years like a mortgage. This is what should be done.

I welcome the motion and I will support it.

I express my sympathy to the families of the three people who so tragically lost their lives yesterday, each of them very well regarded in their own local communities. Claire O'Neill from Aglish in County Waterford, not far from the Tipperary border, was a cancer support co-ordinator. Fintan Goss from County Louth was a father of two and very much involved in St. Patrick's, his local GAA club. Michael Pyke, a 31 year old from Ardfinnan in my own constituency of County Tipperary, was a member of a very old and well-respected family that is very well-known in the Ardfinnan, Cahir and Clonmel areas. He has been described by all who knew him as a gentle giant and was doing a good deed for elderly neighbours at the time of his death. He was also a student at the Limerick Institute of Technology and a very well-respected one at that, so much so that flags flew at half mast in the college today and a book of condolences has been opened in his honour. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha dílse.

I welcome the debate on this subject which is, of course, not just a matter for Cork alone. Cork City, incidentally, has just won the League of Ireland Premier Division title with a draw against Derry City this evening. In debating this matter, we have to go back to the then Minister, Phil Hogan, when he effectively destroyed local government in this country. The abolition of borough and town councils undermined local democracy, local government and local services. Local services should be provided as close to their users as possible. Successive Governments' whole way of thinking on this has been all about centralisation, be it in local government, in health or in whatever else, and the idea that big is best. Big is not always best. Certainly in the case of local government, services and supports should be provided at a local level. In the past there was a very strong bond between citizens and local government, particularly where there were urban, town and borough councils. The councils that were abolished throughout the country should be restored.

County Tipperary was probably more affected than most counties. We lost Clonmel Borough Council, which had existed since the early 1600s and, through Mayor White, had seen off Cromwell in its time. We also lost the town councils in Carrick-on-Suir, Cashel, Tipperary, Nenagh, Thurles and Templemore. The abolition of these and other councils led to a huge loss of local democracy in County Tipperary and throughout the country. Some towns in County Tipperary, including Cashel and Templemore, do not even have local offices where people can do local business with the county council. The county has also suffered the loss of €1 million in road grants. This is not the only example of a loss of services. The effect of the lack of house maintenance and the introduction of tenant handbooks has been that tenants are now responsible for absolutely everything. This would not be allowed in the case of private landlords. The councils that were abolished should be restored and consideration should be given to the establishment of town councils in other substantial towns like Roscrea, Cahir and Fethard in County Tipperary. When will the Minister introduce proposals to re-establish the town councils that have been abolished? I understood that a report on this matter was to be prepared by June of this year but we have not yet seen it. I hope the Minister will bring forward clear, substantial and wide-ranging proposals for the re-establishment of the borough and town councils in the near future.

The motion before the House refers to the national planning framework, which is very important. As a previous speaker said, there is a huge regional imbalance between the Dublin area, or the east of the country, and the rest of the country. The south east has certainly lagged behind as a result of the lack of balanced regional development in recent years. The chief executives of all the local authorities in the region recently came to the Leinster House audiovisual room to brief Members of the Oireachtas from the area on the South East Action Plan for Jobs. The south east needs its fair share of development. This needs to happen on a balanced basis. The south east has the second highest unemployment rate and the second lowest growth in foreign direct investment. It has a smaller proportion of high-potential startups than any other region. There has been a significant brain drain from the south east. Some 67% of students leave the region to study and 40% of them do not return. Progress needs to be made quickly on the important question of a technical university for the south east. Proper funding and investment are needed to bring such a university into line with other universities. When the Minister recently announced the N20 project in Cork, we were disappointed that there was no reference to the upgrading of the N24 to motorway status. I ask the Government to ensure motorway status is given to the N24 in the near future as part of the capital investment programme.

I wish to share time with Deputy Michael Healy-Rae.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I am delighted to have an opportunity to speak on this motion. I compliment my colleague, Deputy Michael Collins, who tabled it. The funding of local authority services is the most important and critical issue which will affect the success of any proposed amalgamation. The underfunding of Galway will be significantly worsened if the proposed amalgamation of Galway City Council and Galway County Council proceeds without an overhaul of funding on the part of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. Earlier this year, an expert advisory group examined the possibility of abolishing the city and county councils and replacing them with a greater Galway authority. This amalgamated authority would cover a vast geographical area from the River Shannon to the Aran Islands. It would include Galway city, which currently has a defined city boundary. Following this review, the amalgamation was unanimously recommended by the expert review group. While there may be some merit for strategic planning and economies of scale for shared services, this proposal should not proceed as long as the current funding model is in place.

County Galway's local authorities are vastly underfunded at present. It is instructive to review counties of a similar size and scale to County Galway, such as counties Mayo, Donegal, Kerry and Tipperary. Among this cohort, Galway County Council has the highest population, the lowest staff complement, the lowest per capita budget and the lowest rates base. However, Galway makes the largest contribution to the local property tax equalisation fund. Aside from Kerry, Galway is the lowest recipient of equalisation fund allocations. I would like to compare the figures for counties Galway and Mayo. At the end of 2015, Galway had 740 whole-time equivalent staff and Mayo had 928 such staff. Galway's overall budget for 2016 was €104 million, whereas Mayo's budget was €125 million. Galway's per capita budget was €599, whereas Mayo had a budget of €962 per head of population. Galway's commercial rates base for 2016 was €25.5 million and the equivalent figure for Mayo was €28.8 million. At the 2016 census, the Galway County Council area had a population of 179,000 and the Mayo County Council area had a population of 130,000. Most startlingly, Galway's allocation from the local property tax equalisation fund in 2016 was €1.063 million, while Mayo received €9.319 million. Galway's contribution to the local property tax equalisation fund in 2016 was €2.8 million, while Mayo paid in just €2 million.

This situation will get worse if Galway City Council and Galway County Council amalgamate. The per capita budget, which is approximately €684 at present, will still be the lowest of the five comparable counties. It is clear that the ongoing budget shortfall is having a direct impact on services and staff morale in Galway. Five of the seven main personnel in Galway County Council are in acting roles at present because permanent positions cannot be filled due to a lack of funding and uncertainly regarding the potential amalgamation. This means that major decisions cannot be made. Galway County Council's planning office has just half the staff of Mayo County Council's planning office. As of May 2017, the Galway office is processing twice as many planning applications. The erosion of funding has resulted in no local authority housing construction in recent years. This lack of funding has contributed to the national housing crisis, the lack of critical infrastructure, planning delays and difficulties, minimal repair and maintenance of local roads and a host of other problems. Regardless of whether the proposed amalgamation proceeds, the Government needs to review how local authorities are funded. The local property tax was introduced in 2013 to improve and enhance funding for local services. All that has happened since its introduction has been a reduction in the general purpose grant paid by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to local authorities.

There has been no net gain to local authorities or the taxpayer as a result of this tax. There is no clarity on how the local property tax equalisation fund, to which every local authority contributes 20% of the local property tax raised in its area, is allocated. My colleague, Councillor Thomas Welby, has tabled a motion for the next meeting of Galway County Council calling for the discontinuation of the legislation which provides that all counties must contribute 20% to the equalisation fund. He is proposing instead that all the money raised in each local authority area must remain in that area. This would help address the funding inequities across the country.

With the improvement in the economy over the past couple of years, increased funding has been provided to every other State agency and local authorities must get their fair share. No proposed amalgamation will be successful unless improved and adequate funding is provided by the Government. A clear funding model for each new authority must be provided before any further amalgamation proceeds.

I am very glad to support Deputy Michael Collins, who is the main man behind the motion. It is a very important motion in that it is like standing up and saying, "Stop. Look at what is happening. Who is saying this is right and who is saying this is wrong?" I support the very good arguments that have been made by each member of our group. This is a critical time in that we are seeing what I would call a grab to take away people's say and to make rural areas smaller and more disenfranchised. During a different debate, I spoke about the abolition of town councils. The same arrogance we are seeing now was displayed at that time. Those councils were done away with by what I would call the type of gerrymandering similar to what is currently proposed. This is the situation in Cork.

Deputy Grealish spoke about Galway. He could be referring to Kerry or any other place. We are here only because the people want us to be. I cannot praise county councillors enough. I have stated repeatedly that I do not care about their politics - whether they are independent or members of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin, Labour or any other party - because, in my honest and humble opinion, they do an invaluable job. County councillors do not get half enough recognition for the good, sound, solid and sensible work they do seven days a week on behalf of the people they are proud and glad to be elected to represent.

Services for people living in rural areas in particular are being continuously downgraded. If autonomy is taken away from those living in rural areas and if those areas are subsumed into larger ones, it means that their level of representation is much less.

Deputy Grealish referred to funding local authorities. Funding has been taken away from our local authorities over the years. I compliment the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, on reinstating such funding. The programme for Government promised the reintroduction of funding for local improvement scheme, LIS, roads. Between 2011 and 2017, that stream of funding ceased completely.

At the same time, millions of euro were pumped into roads and infrastructure around Dublin. This comes back to what I have said since the first day I came to the House, namely, that there are people in Dublin and in government who think there is no world beyond the Red Cow roundabout. They think everything stops within that boundary. I have news for them. Whether in Goleen in west Cork or south, north or east Kerry, we have people who we want to represent. There are people who have issues regarding their local areas and we want to stand up for them and fight for more funding.

Things are being proposed that would not be for the betterment of people living in the localities, townlands and hinterlands affected by what is mentioned in the motion. That is why Deputy Michael Collins was right to insist on bringing the motion before the House. It is right to debate this matter and to hear about all of the issues involved. Ultimately, we are standing up for people in terms of the issues that affect them. We want people to have proper, fair and strong representation, whether in Dáil Éireann or local authorities which, as I said, could never be commended enough.

I thank the management, directors of services and people with shovels working for the local authorities today. They deserve our support. We represent the people and fight to ensure that whether one is living in a remote area or in a large town there is fair and equal representation for everybody. We will always stand up for people locally or nationally.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss the many positive impacts on rural areas that will flow from the national planning framework, to dispel concerns about any connection between the framework and local authority boundary reviews and to hear the views of Deputies on many issues. I have had an opportunity to listen to Deputy Michael Healy-Rae twice on the same issue. I can understand his concerns and his love of local councils. We all agree that they do great work, but many towns had no councils.

As someone who served on an area council, I am aware that there was a lot of duplication of work. I have said umpteen times that there were often delays between different councils operating in the same areas. District areas worked quite well and conserved towns very well, including Navan town in my constituency. This was because the municipal areas covered entire towns. The system worked extremely well.

There is an ongoing review of the size of boundaries and municipal areas. I accept that councillors in Kerry, Mayo and other counties represent large areas and that they do great work. It can be difficult for them to cover such large areas. The system is being reviewed and it is to be hoped that we can all agree on the best way forward when the matter comes before the Cabinet in the months ahead.

It would appear that behind the motion from the Rural Independent Group Deputies is a concern about the draft national planning framework and what it proposes in respect of rural areas. I want to be clear. I represent Meath and Westmeath. There are large urban areas in those counties. The position is similar with the greater Dublin region, which Deputy Cassels represents. We also represent very rural areas, including the northern part of Meath and Westmeath. We understand exactly what Deputies are trying to say. The national planning framework is not to the detriment of rural areas. Rather, it is about trying to rebalance employment, housing and other services throughout all of the regions and help rural areas.

It is important to recognise that the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government will tomorrow consider the draft framework and will have a chance to express its views in the final version of the document. The matter will be discussed in the House and by the committee. The latter will consider the work and views of the House. The process continues, following an informal briefing.

There is a great deal for urban and rural areas in Ireland 2040. The most important element of the national planning framework is having an overall plan for our country's strategic development, not just rural or urban areas. Rather, rural and urban areas should work together for the overall benefit of our communities and future. This is about our future and looking ten, 20 or 25 years ahead, something we, as politicians, should do on a regular basis. Too often we discuss the crisis of a given week or year in the House. This is about trying to ensure that we all take a long-term view. We are all involved and it will be a Dáil document looking 20 or 25 years ahead. That is what we are trying to do in order to get the balance right in terms of education, health, job creation and so on.

I will turn to some specifics. A couple of key points need to made. In the context of future population growth, the framework envisages a broadly even split between the future growth of our cities and wider regions and rural areas. It is a sensible and reasonable approach, recognising that our cities and wider rural areas need to grow in a structured and harmonious way. On the other hand, the reality of not having a plan, as many Deputies will be aware, can mean vast developments on the edges of our cities and towns, with a general denuding of small towns and villages and older city cores alike. Towns have suffered from a lack of investment and economic purpose for 20 or 30 years. This has not happened during the recession of the past ten years alone. Some rural areas have been in decline and suffered from depopulation for 20 or 30 years. We are trying to put life back into some of these places.

Unless we begin to do something about this now, this will lead to many possible serious consequences in terms of social disadvantage, the need to expend significant sums of money on urban regeneration and in playing an endless game of chase in respect of investing in new infrastructure in fast-growing areas. The sprawl, and certainly unplanned sprawl, must stop. It is very important that to make certain areas sustainable, the population must increase to make them viable for the provision of services. We have seen this in many towns and villages around the greater Dublin region. Towns and villages throughout the country should be built up to serve cities and work off them as well. This document will help to try to plan where we are going with each town and village in all our counties. There must be a logic to which we can all subscribe that will balance services in a sustainable way that we can afford.

If we think a sprawl-based development pattern is right for our future, we face a lose-lose scenario for both rural and urban areas. We need a plan to deal with at least an extra million people living in the Republic, which will take the population to 5.75 million people. On the whole island, the population will increase to approximately 8 million people, and we must plan for that and see where we can put people's homes in order that they can be close to a job and various services.

The Government is finding it hard to build homes at the moment.

There will be an extra 600,000 jobs, mainly in the knowledge economy, frequently being drawn to the cities and central urban areas. I heard the Deputy speaking about Galway today, which is one of the medical technology hubs of the world. It is a major centre and we need to enhance and develop it. This means Galway city must grow and the population living there must increase. We have to find ways to provide housing today and in future.

We can do that. There is no need to extend boundaries.

It is about making decisions with local authority members and Deputies representing the area. It is also about making long-term planning decisions.

Make sure it is properly funded.

I am not here to have an argument.

The Minister of State, without interruption.

I want to support the Deputy.

Show us the money. Tabhair dúinn an airgead.

We know if we really want to develop Galway as a city, approximately €1 billion must be spent on transport to service the area. These are the kinds of questions that should be considered in a long-term plan. What needs to be spent and where must it be spent to achieve what we want? That is the idea of a long-term plan; it is like a business case setting out where we are going with the country in every region. This can then be backed up, paid for and planned over ten, 20 or 25 years. That is how to sustainably plan a town, village or city. We have suffered from a lack of planning in this country for many years and Deputy Cassells and I have seen the consequences of that living in County Meath.

I agree about bad planning.

We live in towns that were not planned and suffered population overspill from Dublin. They suffered all kinds of consequences in trying to catch up. If we get this right, with the support of the House, there will be no catching up on bad planning as we will have good planning from the start. The money will follow the population to provide required services as people start to live in areas. It will not take ten, 20 or 30 years for them to come about.

As I stated, we must plan for an extra 600,000 jobs and at least 500,000 new homes. We must get that right. We must also plan for a doubling of the numbers in our communities aged over 65, as 1.3 million people will be over that age. We have to plan for the services and towns they need with respect to housing and health care, along with all the other services. People must have a choice to live in communities all their lives and not have to move away when they get a little older.

The people of this country expect politicians, whether they function at national, regional or local levels - we all have a role in this and must work together as much as possible - to put in place sensible and reasonable planning policies that not only address these major changes coming quickly towards us but also deliver lasting benefits. Our real job is to plan ahead to get the maximum benefit for everybody. This means putting in place a deliberate strategy - not business as usual but a disruptive strategy - that will see Ireland and its urban and rural places developed in harmony rather than in competition with each other. There is room for everybody to expand and we must do this properly.

The motion being countered by the Government suggests the national planning framework will weaken rural Ireland, which is wrong. I do not agree with that. The suggestion is dubious and it is completely and utterly erroneous.

It is a proposal to put people in towns and villages.

It is not true. I have been clear in saying I am not here to have a row with the Deputies. How many Deputies spoke here tonight and how many will have the chance over the weeks ahead, before the consultation closes on this process?

There are not many of the Minister of State's colleagues here anyway.

We have had numerous discussions on this up and down the country and many Deputies did not take the time to get involved. There are a few weeks left to have the conversation both here, in committee and in other forums. I hope people will take the time to have their views known, make representations and give us a chance to tease out ideas. Do not tell me in three months there was no opportunity for that. This has been discussed for the past two or three years. Most people have failed to get involved but there is plenty of time left and Members should not tell me in six months' time that they have missed out on a discussion or debate.

If Deputies consider the whole document, rather than reacting to those who spin against a long-term transformational strategy, they will see it contains many different kinds of practical planning and development and investment policies. These will benefit rural Ireland by driving planned and community-led regeneration initiatives aimed at repurposing rural economies to benefit from new technology, driving economic activities and new living possibilities. It is about growing our regions outside Dublin and the east by more than would occur under a "business as usual" scenario and improving connectivity to weaker areas of our country, including the northern and western parts of Ireland. I can provide a statistic the Deputies might not like agreeing with. One can review job creation in 2016 and most of 2017 and see that more than 70% of all new jobs created are outside cities. They are in the regions and that includes the likes of Galway. That is a fact; I am not making it up. That comes from long-term planning. It came from the Action Plan for Jobs and specifically a regional process to ensure jobs were pushed to the regions. This is getting results. It is about making a plan.

We must all understand and accept the traditional economic structure of rural Ireland is changing. Agriculture, the food sector, tourism and many traditional pillars of the rural economies must play their part in the implementation of the national planning framework but it is also necessary to create new opportunities for the renewal and revival of rural economies. In many smaller towns and villages across rural Ireland, one will see many empty buildings, closed shops and schools that are under threat. We must get people living in those empty streets and buildings again and must give them a purpose to be there. I accept we must encourage and fund this.

We need infrastructure.

I mentioned to Deputy Harty getting people out there. Funding is required in a co-ordinated, logical and planned way that has buy-in from all State agencies and Departments. That can happen with this document, which will be the saviour of rural Ireland and not the opposite, as it is being portrayed today.

Ar an chéad dul síos, déanaim comhbhrón le clanna na daoine a fuair bás inné. They were Ms Clare O'Neill, whose home was not too far away from me in Aglish, Contae Port Láirge, Mr. Fintan Goss in County Louth and Mr. Michael Pyke. I know the Pyke family and express my sympathy to all the families. The Pyke family is hard-working and decent, and Michael's dad, Tony, worked for years with Tipperary County Council. He was out yesterday with the other colleagues who came on the scene, including fire services and the Garda Síochána. They attended many such incidents. Like many who have spoken, I thank the front-line service men and women and the people who heeded the good warnings given by Met Éireann. I condemn the people who shamefully and wilfully went out to sea to surf, for example. There should be legislation on this, as somebody mentioned. We cannot have people endangering the lives of rescue personnel, including the Red Cross, the Garda Síochána and the fire and ambulance services. People were putting their lives at risk and we must support and salute them. I appeal to those who still are without power to be very careful with trees that have fallen or roofs that have shifted. They should be extra careful as we do not want any more fatalities or serious injuries. It was a short, sharp hurricane but it brought back the reality that there is a God above and things can happen. With all the power we have, we cannot stop him. We want to be careful so there are no more fatalities. People should watch out for falling debris and changes to land beside rivers and streams. Much can happen when trees are uprooted in particular. Bígí cúramach.

I am appalled the Minister of State has been on his own for the past half hour, as had been the other Minister of State, Deputy Phelan, before that. That is the interest the Government has in the rural-centred motion we put down. I compliment Deputy Michael Collins and all colleagues in the Rural Independent Group on putting this down. One might argue it is about Cork but it is not; it is about the national planning framework and what is going to happen after the change in Cork and every other place. I thank Ms Máiréad Nic Craith, our secretary, and Padge Reck in Wexford, a politician of long standing, now retired, who gave us some input on this. Without people like those and their service, we would not be anywhere at all.

Many people made contributions tonight and I welcome all the comments. I am disappointed with the lack of support offered tonight but that is democracy. There are only seven of us and we will have to get stronger in order to reach the ten Deputies we need to push our votes. We would welcome others in supporting us on Thursday so we can divide the House on the motion.

I raised similar concerns recently when I informed the House of the latest statistics from the EUROSTAT 2016 yearbook, which are deeply alarming for rural Ireland. This is staring us in the face. One does not need spectacles and if there is a nose on one's face, one would see it anywhere. We can see it in the Minister of State's constituency, my constituency or those of Deputies Harty, Michael Collins, Grealish, Michael Healy-Rae and Danny Healy-Rae. It is there in front of us night and day.

This will save it.

That is wishful thinking.

It will on paper.

I said it last week on "Prime Time" on RTÉ, which was pitting Dundrum in Tipperary - a fine rural village - against Dundrum in Dublin with respect to property tax.

It was said that we should table motions to keep the property tax that is paid in Tipperary in Tipperary and keep the equalisation fund. The statistics demonstrate that over 50% of Ireland's GDP, which is the total value of everything produced in this country, is generated in Dublin. This is despite the fact that an estimated 60% of the population live outside County Dublin. That is a stark statistic, and it is getting worse. These figures are from a European body. These figures point, yet again, to the absurdly disproportionate level of economic activity that is concentrated in Dublin. I walked down to the church on Clarendon Street to say a prayer. There are cranes all over the place and homeless people on the streets beside them, yet this Government is building offices. We want people to get back to work. We all do, but where are they going to live? It is nonsense. All the cranes are building commercial departments. There is no real interest in housing. Where are the people going to go? On the one hand it is great news for those living and working here in Dublin, but it also gives the lie to the idea that the rest of the country would benefit from a booming economy in the capital. It is a farce. There are many reports and much spin. The Taoiseach is now spending €5 million on a PR team. It will be no use. As I said about the budget, it will be like snow in a ditch. It will be like the fog in Kerry, west Cork, Kinvara or the Knockmealdowns in my own area that disappears at ten o'clock in the morning.

That the rest of country will benefit has clearly not come to pass, and it has been left to stagnate instead, particularly rural Ireland. The Minister of State knows that better than I do. He was shouting about it for years in opposition, when it was his job and his duty. Now he is trying to defend the indefensible. Even the European Commission in Ireland has observed that the figures here are way out of kilter with the majority of other EU capitals. Surely we can listen to that. I came back from Liverpool this evening where I spent two days discussing Brexit. It is quite clear why they left. There is too much bureaucracy, stagnation and bullying from Europe. The European Commission has also pointed out that in 2004 the shift in economic activity towards Dublin was the second highest in the EU, at 5.5 percentage points. That cannot be good. What we are continuing to see, therefore, is the total absence of any effective measures to address the massive imbalance that exists between Dublin and the rest of the State. This has to be addressed, not only at Government level but also at EU level, where perhaps consideration might be given to an idea such as making industrial grants conditional on development in rural Ireland. We have to do something like that because development is not happening. This would be consistent with the EU's own agenda of making areas with viable commercial and industrial centres.

So many concerns addressed here tonight centre around the idea of giving rural Ireland a fair and proportionate chance to thrive. We are not beggars. We are a proud people, and we want to be able to work, live, play, and support our clubs and our neighbours. Community alert groups are out tonight checking on their elderly neighbours. That is the kind of people we are in rural Ireland. We do it. We do not have the handouts, but we are entitled to our fair share. That is all we want, and we are not getting it.

Deputy Grealish spoke about the amalgamations in Galway. The amalgamations in Tipperary were an abject failure. It is a pity the previous Minister is gone. He spoke about the local government Act in 2014. The flame in south Tipperary is in the person of both myself and the former mayor of the proud town of Clonmel who have a case in the High Court challenging many aspects of that legislation. I had the privilege of serving that summons on the former Minister, big Phil Hogan, the enforcer, when he was having a cup of coffee in this House. He thought I had something nice for him, and he had a look on his face the like of which he had during the water charges issue when he spoke about the ordinary people and what he was going to do with them. The look was gone off his face after the next election. I served that summons on him. It is there, and is to be challenged.

I have questions about that amalgamation in Tipperary in 2014 which was decided on in this House. I was the only man to stand up, not Deputy Cowen, who was here as well, and say that we would be heard from again in another place. I could not call a vote because I did not have the adequate numbers, and it all went through nicely. How did he appoint executives from north Tipperary to take over south Tipperary a year before the legislation was enacted, or even discussed or debated?

All is not well. The people in rural Ireland are awake. The west is awake. West Cork is awake. Clare is awake. Kerry is awake. Tipperary is awake. Many areas that our group represent are awake.

Do not forget Galway.

Of course Galway is awake. They won the all-Ireland. They are alive and awake and are not going to accept this any more because it has gone on for far too long. All governments have paid lip service, but the permanent government are here, with their hands on the handlebars, and it would take a jackhammer to get them off. They do not want to give anything to rural Ireland. Let the croppies lie down. Cromwell said "To hell or Connaught". Now it is to hell or any place except Dublin. That is bad. We see the homeless problem, the problem with education, with parking-----

Check the job creation statistics for the last 12 months.

When are the jobs coming to rural Ireland? I spoke to people from the IDA in Washington in America last St. Patrick's Day. I was told that they were not even coming as far as Kildare, Naas, or Meath. I will check the stats.

The Deputy is reading reports from ten years ago.

One can have all the stats and all the reports. The national planning framework is a bad business. I do not accept the national planning framework people. Who are they? It is all jobs for the boys - retired county managers and retired senior officials. There are very few ordinary people, like shopkeepers or small business people from Tipperary, Kerry, Cork or any other place. No, they will not be consulted at all. They will just pay up or shut up. We have reviewed the race now in Tipperary, all over the county. We are going to put up. We have proud towns, such as Carrick-on-Suir. Clonmel had a budget of €15 million. Now we do not have a shilling. The Minister of State is talking about municipal districts being good. They are not good. They are a disaster. They are too big. The towns are being neglected. We are trying to spread it too thinly and end up with nothing for anyone. Cashel Town Council was there for centuries, where the high kings of Munster sat. We had Roscrea, Templemore and Nenagh and now what have we? We had no town council in Cahir, but we had a block grant every year for the town. You have raped and plundered, and I hate using that word in this context, and you continue to do it. This motion is an effort to correct the imbalance. We want to have a debate here, not just with your slippery, slimy amendments. With the confidence and supply agreement, Fianna Fáil and the Government have proposed two amendments to try to put manners on us and tell us to lie down. We will not lie down and the people of Ireland will not lie down. We will be back agus beidh lá eile ag an bPaorach.

Do not be enticing the Deputy to break the rules. It is not becoming of you, Deputy Healy-Rae.

Amendment put.

In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Thursday, 19 October 2017.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.10 p.m. until 10.30 a.m on Wednesday, 18 October 2017.