Possible changes to county boundaries could result in Clare-born playing with Limerick if the proposals get the go ahead.
Clare TD Michael Harty expressed his concerns during a private members motion from the independent group of deputies on the Local Authority Boundaries Review in Dáil Éireann.
Moving the constituency boundary is always a vexed issue and Deputy Harty recalled that Limerick’s attempt to annex a portion of south-east Clare proved very contentious in 2011.
A committee chaired by Denis Brosnan had proposed to incorporate Shannon Banks, Westbury and parts of UL on the Clare side of the Shannon into Limerick city, including the parishes of Meelick, Parteen, Ardnacrusha and Clonlara.
During the debate calling for the rejection of boundary changes recommended in the Mackinnon report, Deputy Harty said, “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.”
Noting the historical, sporting, cultural and social reasons for existing boundaries, Dr Harty said, “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.”
He added, “boundary changes are usually proposed by bigger authorities to annex profitable areas of smaller authorities under the guise of better administration and governance. Quite often, such changes are marked out with a ruler and take no account of parish, townland or natural boundaries. This is counter to the ideals of balanced regional development, which is proposed and promoted in the Programme for a Partnership Government.”
Deputy Harty believes an alternative solution to the boundary change 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. the
“It should not be to the detriment of one council over the other. In the case of Clare County Council, the annexation of south-east Clare would not in any way enhance Clare to reach its full potential”.
In conclusion he said, “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.”