by Pat Brosnan

County and City Amalgamation

It has been long talked about, discussed and debated and sometimes has been a source of rancour and controversy between those who were in favour of an amalgamation of the County and City Councils of Limerick and those who were not. But very soon apparently, the new coming together of the 2 former local authorities will be moulded into one super new administrative body which will have responsibility for the running of the entire county including the city. This course of action has been adopted on the recommendation of my namesake and fellow Kerry man, former Kerry group boss, Denis Brosnan, Chairman of the Local Government Committee who recommended the amalgamation of the 2 County Authorities. So far none of us seem to know whether such a major break with decades of tradition is for better or worse. The whole idea behind the move appears to be that it will save money first of all, that it will mean less councillors and less administration costs, even if this entails a diminution of democracy throughout Limerick city and the county my own innermost feeling is that it is a completely needless exercise, like other high profile amalgamations that have taken place both locally and nationally during the past 3 decades in our country. Leaving aside the disaster of joining the European Union whose consequences have left our country bankrupt and in dire straits financially, economically and politically. Things that happened , even at county and local level in West Limerick and North Kerry have all added to the rural decline that has taken place when once-thriving towns  and villages such as Athea have so grievously suffered from takeovers that have been so mistakenly and falsely described as progress. It did not surprise me one bit that Dennis Brosnan, in his view, would have been so pleased by the action following his report that the two Local Authorities in Limerick were joining forces.  It looks as if Denis Brosnan has surely been a strong advocate of the “big is beautiful” agenda and while naturally, he is entitled to his opinion, so are the rest of us who may not agree with the views of himself and his Local Government Committee on the matter.  The proper and only democratic procedure would have been to hold referendums in both the city and the county to decide the matter and unless there was support on all sides for the amalgamation that should have been the end of the matter. Leaving it to an appointed committee to adjudicate on such an important matter without any reference to the people is both dictatorial and anti-democratic in every sense. Looking back on Dennis Brosnan’s “Big is Beautiful” agenda and the amalgamation of the two local creameries in Athea and Cratloe into the Kerry Co-Op Group, there are many local people to-day who are still regretting that it ever happened. These local creameries and stores were a great source of income as well as employment to the local economy and now that these have disappeared from the face of the earth in Athea and Cratloe  nothing has ever come that would even remotely replace them. People here are also looking at the huge success of Newtownsandes Co-Operative creamery in neighbouring Moyvane who remained independent and did not join Kerry Co-Op Group. By all accounts the Company and its staff and shareholders are doing very well on their own, a striking example of local effort and initiative.  In all fair play we must of course be prepared to acknowledge that Dennis Brosnan has been a super innovator in his own right, and has promoted the Kerry Group and its products all over the world, but some of us would still maintain that a democratic mandate was what one would consider the most essential ingredient in bringing the two Limerick Councils together under the one umbrella. Obviously this most vital part was missing so what can we expect? A strange twist in the whole episode is that Dáil Deputy Willie O’Dea and Limerick City Councillor Maurice Quinlivan have both stated that they are sceptical about a unified authority. It is common knowledge that Deputy O’Dea and Councillor Quinlivan were involved in a rather bitter legal confrontation a few years ago, so it is indeed unusual to see them both opposed to the councils coming together under the one authority. But now that it appears to be established, without consultation with the people concerned in a straight yes or no referendum, we shall have to await further developments.  All this messing about with constituency boundaries has left this area of West Limerick in a virtual “no man’s land”. Last year we were separated from the rest of the county and joined in with the North Kerry Constituency and was something which nobody in this part of Limerick wanted. It has deprived our West Limerick local area of any native representation in either the Dáil or Seanad which is a major disadvantage to the people of this part of West Limerick.  We are now depending on three North Kerry Dáil Deputies to represent us and while no blame to them, it is obvious and indeed only natural that their main focus would be in North Kerry – it would be difficult to expect otherwise. In Athea, too, we have our own boundary problems, with our Parish partitioned into two different County Council Constituency sections –one area consisting of the village and some rural townlands all in Newcastle West Constituency and the Northern area of the Parish, all rural, in the Rathkeale constituency. This is a ridiculous situation where people in the Northern area of the parish have to cast their votes in polling booths outside their own parish. This division of our parish makes it virtually impossible for Athea people to elect a local Athea candidate to Limerick County Council, so again in this sense we are handicapped in the people of all the Parish not voting for an Athea candidate in a Council election. It is an anomaly that badly needs to be corrected before the next local elections if the people of Athea, as a single parish unit, are to be granted their rights and some measure of fair play. Nothing short of this would be acceptable.


The School Buses

While the threat of the reduction, or in certain instances the withdrawal of school transport after the present school holidays may still be only in the rumour stage many parents are no doubt very concerned that this might become a reality in the future.  But if we are to go back to the basic cause of this looming crisis for the present day parents of primary school pupils, it all springs, of course, from the major mistake made by the Government of the day back in the late 60’s in closing down local primary national schools such as we had in Knocknagorna, Clash, Cratloe East and thousands of others around the country. During that period school managers, public representatives and others of influence promoted the idea of centralised schools and transporting children to these from outlying areas. In hindsight this was where originally it went wrong, but unfortunately for the parents and children of to-day there can be no turning back now. Examples of the high quality of education in some of the rural schools that remained open can be seen in areas such as – Ballyguiltenane, Knocknasna and Dromclough in North Kerry. It is to be hoped that the children and teenagers of today, which includes some of our own grand-children, as well as their parents are not going to be punished because of the neglect and mismanagement of Government departments and financial institutions. It would certainly be too high a price to pay for official blunders.



Congratulations to local County Councillor John Sheahan on his recent appointment by the Government to the Committee of the Regions, which is an advisory body of local and regional Authorities in the European Union. Best of luck to John in his new role.