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Aerial view of Cork City centre River Lee, Washington street, St Francis church bridges St. Patrick Street. Picture: Finbarr O'Connell
Aerial view of Cork City centre River Lee, Washington street, St Francis church bridges St. Patrick Street. Picture: Finbarr O'Connell
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Dedicated councillors are 'a must' for the city centre

AN expanded Cork City Council will need dedicated representation for the city centre, according to Cork Business Association chief executive Lawrence Owens.

With the city's population and area effectively being doubled, the electoral areas for the 2019 local elections will require extensive changes from the six city council wards that have been in place for decades.

The Mackinnon Report, which forms the basis of the compromised boundary agreed in recent days, recommends five divisions for the city, including one for the city centre.

Many feel that the existing boundaries have led to underrepresentation for the small businesses in the city centre, along with the several thousand residents, as councillors have focused on the more densely populated estates further out in the suburbs. 

The city centre is also segmented between wards, with most of the central island in Cork South Central, but areas like MacCurtain Street and the docklands are in other wards.

Mr Owens said that the city centre needs to get its own representation if more suburban areas are being added to the city.

"There has to be a complete look at the representation in a different landscape, and that will probably be a good thing. We have lacked representation, and that was natural as the councillors moved out to the suburbs where the votes are," he said.

He welcomed the agreement on the boundary and said that it has been done with plenty of time to make changes before the next election, but had it gone on any longer "we'd be stuck with this mess for another five or six years."

Meanwhile, independent county councillor Ger Keohane, based in Glanmire, said that any councillors that move into the City Council after the next election will face a learning curve to get to grips with it, but that it is possible.

"I was a raw baby going into the County Council three years ago and got into it. There's no reason why I can't do it again in the city," he said.

He said that what is more important is that services for county areas moving into the city are maintained.

"Once we get the usual supports like community grants for Tidy Towns and sports clubs, as long as we can sustain that, and I've been assured we can, I would love another term, even if it means going into the city," he said. 

Minister of for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy was believed to be keen to resolve the boundary in Cork before the end of the year in time for the local election boundary commission to adjust the local electoral areas in time for 2019, which should now be possible. 

A separate agreement has been reached between Fine Gael and the independents to restrict local electoral area sizes to between five and seven seats.