While the Boundary Commission proposal has elicited little formal discussion among Waterford City & County Councillors, across the Suir, their colleagues in South Kilkenny firmly remain on a ‘red alert’ footing.
During a discussion at the November meeting of the Piltown Electoral District in Ferrybank, Councillors again gave rise to concerns about the lack of detail which has yet to surface in relation to the potential revision of the North City/South Kilkenny ‘frontier’.
Addressing Councillors, Meetings Administrator Kevin Hanley said that the Commission had met with the Chief Executives of Waterford and Kilkenny’s local authorities on October 25th. Following that meeting, Commission Chair Declan O’Connor and new member John Martin met with officials from both Councils and have requested background information documents from both authorities as part of their work.
The Commission will also meet with Kilkenny County Council’s Boundary Commission Steering Committee on two separate occasions in due course, with the first meeting expected to be held this Thursday (November 19th) in Ferrybank.
As of Wednesday, November 4th, the exact area that the Commission is due to adjudicate on with respect to the proposal had not yet been furnished to Kilkenny County Council. At the same meeting, Mr Hanley said: “We’re still waiting on the public notice and the advertisement, so they’re still in draft. And we’re still waiting for confirmation of dates on the public consultation period, but that could (be imminent).”
A website is to be developed for members of the public to lodge submissions on the proposal, and postal submissions shall also be accepted.
According to District Chair Pat Dunphy (FG): “The idea of public submissions being sought, possibly before Christmas, is fraught with danger – it’s the nightmare scenario as far as I’m concerned – and I don’t think it’s possible for the public to fully represent their views in a four-week period, especially at a time of the year when a lot us are naturally distracted.”
Cllr Tomás Breathnach (Lab) confessed to having “huge reservations about the timeline…the fact that we’re still discussing this in provisional terms, and for us to be then expected to react quickly once we’re told something is in train…
“I don’t think that something as serious as this should be getting handled the way this has been up to now. There ought to be a long lead in, there should be a plentiful flow of information and the fact that we still do not know the exact ‘area of interest’, which the Commission referred to, is hardly a satisfactory position. I just feel the timeline is far too tight on this and that what’s been presented to us so far, and let’s face it, that’s not been a great deal when it comes to specific detail, is quite unfair on both us as public representatives and the people of South Kilkenny given how important an issue this is.”
Echoing Cllr Breathnach’s sentiments, Cllr Melissa O’Neill (SF) added: “Up to now, we’ve just not been able to do our jobs when it comes to informing people on the ground about this. So much of this is in the up in the air and I can’t avoid feeling that we’ve been kept in the dark about all of this. The process up to now just hasn’t been good enough and we can’t just be puppets on a string when it comes to this.”
Cllr Ger Frisby (FF) made a similar refrain: “This is such a hugely emotive and sensitive issue and the way it’s been presented to us up to this point, well it’s just not on. People have been left in the dark and the way it’s been done, in such a willy-nilly way, it’s just crazy.”
His party colleague Eamon Aylward intimated: “They seem to be making this up as they go along. There doesn’t appear to be any cohesion within the Committee. This was initially announced in June and we still know precious little regarding specifics and then we’ll be presented with a ‘jump, how high’ scenario. Someone needs to get their house in order.”
Fine Gael’s Fidelis Doherty suggested there was a ‘divide and conquer’ play at work when it came to the proposal.
“It feels like someone’s trying to sneak in a ‘wooden horse’ here, and get in and divide up our own area and cause mayhem. The public are waiting to give guidance on this from us, but we still have very little in concrete terms to go on.”
Cllr Breathnach stressed: “This not merely a South Kilkenny issue – this is a Kilkenny issue, and I’ll repeat something I’ve already said: there’s no need for this. This can be done in collaboration and co-operation with our neighbouring counties. We’ve shown that through our meetings with New Ross, the meetings we’ve recently instigated with the Waterford Metrpolitan District and what we’ve just in train with our colleagues in the Carrick-on-Suir Municipal District. We need a regional approach, and what we find ourselves being somewhat pre-occupied with at present concerns a boundary – it’s not a wall. It’s permeable and we ought to be working with our neighbours for the betterment of this region.”
The Boundary Commission must submit its findings on the proposal to the Department of the Environment by Thursday, March 31st next.