The Government-appointed Boundary Commission, which is investigating the prospect of an alteration of the ‘border’ between North Waterford city and Ferrybank/South Kilkenny, will now submit its findings to the cabinet come the end of next March.
The revised deadline, disclosed at last Wednesday’s meeting of the Piltown Electoral District in Ferrybank, means the three-person body’s report shall not come before Minister Alan Kelly at the end of November, as had been initially announced.
And there’s also been a change of personnel with the Commission following the resignation of Ciaran Lynch (former chief planner with Clare County Council), who was also a member of the groups investigating the Drogheda and Athlone boundary reviews.
He has been replaced by Mr John Martin, who was a principal planning advisor in the Department of the Environment from 2002 until his retirement in 2011.
According to Piltown District Meetings Administrator Kevin Hanley: “The Commission is currently working on drafting notices (advertisements) for the newspapers to notify the public that their work is underway, and I’ll update members on this when more news is available.”
Mr Hanley requested that a meeting of Kilkenny County Council’s boundary commission steering committee to be held on Friday, October 23rd, to discuss the process which, given the tone of last week’s comments, looks set to be ‘ramped up’.
This committee includes all six members of the Piltown Municipal District, along with County Council Chairperson Mary-Hilda Cavanagh (FG) and the city-based Cllr Joe Malone (FF).
Mr Hanley expects that the public consultation phase of this contentious process shall proceed in tandem with the Commission’s advertising of their work. “I feel that things will be a lot clearer by the end of October”.
Despite the extension that’s been granted to the Commission to conduct its work, an extension which Kilkenny County Council had been seeking for several months, District Chairman Pat Dunphy (FG) still feels “the worry is that there’s not a lot of time between now and March 31st”.
He added: “There could be an election or other things going on between now and then which could cloud the issues and that is a worry. But the over-riding element in all of this, as far as I’m concerned is the question of identity. How can you can quantify identity? It’s the biggest weighting in all of this and I’m just very concerned that the Commission won’t see that. We have to try and impress upon them, every chance we get…but the biggest issue here facing the people of Kilkenny in this will be identity.”
Cllr Tomás Breathnach (Lab) said there was a “great irony” at work given the enhanced level of communication with Waterford’s Municipal District and the cross-Council support between Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford regarding the 2020 European Capital of Culture bid.
“The whole way to not only address this issue but the wider picture regarding the south east’s future is through a regional approach. We’re kickstarting a regional approach on a series of issues, including the ‘Three Sisters’ bid, at a time when we may be dividing over public consultation on this. I just find it somewhat difficult to comprehend that such an issue is being raised at a time when we’re making genuine progress on greater levels of co-operation with our neighbouring local authorities – but of course, as the old saying goes, ‘events, my dear boy’, namely a general election, may well supersede this extended deadline.”
Support staff from both Waterford and Kilkenny’s local authorities met with the Commission on September 3rd and the Commission is expected to meet with both sets of staff again between October 20th and 22nd.
To date, the public political debate over the North Waterford/South Kilkenny boundary issue has been a great deal more tempered and a whole lot less hyperbolic than what proved the case when this matter was last raised back in 2005.