The decline of rural Galway – underlined by closures of post offices, Garda stations and shops – could be halted if the amalgamation of the City and County Councils take place.
This is the view of environmental watchdog An Taisce who made a lengthy submission to the Galway Expert Advisory Group who have now recommended the merger.
However, the vast majority of city and county councillors are firmly opposed to the amalgamation with members of both authorities claiming that they will lose out financially.
County councillors fear that the lion’s share of the annual budget would be spent in the city while the city councillors believe that specific grants for Galway like those for the arts and other festivals throughout the year would be ‘scatted to the winds’.
But Derrick Hambleton of An Taisce in Galway told The Connacht Tribune that the merger would provide the city and county with an “effective and balanced administration”.
He said that much of the fears come from councillors who believe that they would become “small fish in a much larger pond”. And he accused them of being incapable of separating their role as legislators at a local level from their “farm-gate” style of politics.
“Dispersed urban style house building that has been generated over recent decades by people who sought, mainly, to make profit has only contributed to the desolation currently being experienced in many of our own county’s more remote rural areas.
“This is the case in our rural villages where services such as post offices, Garda barracks, schools rural transport and shops have all been closed or threatened with closure.
“This destructive historic pattern of rural deprivation can only be reversed if our region regains its strength. That this can only happen within a strong planning regulation and renewal framework and only if changes are made by promoting one administrative unit for our region.
“With a single administration in place, it should be possible for all future strategic economic development to be put where it would do the most good, and in ensuring the balance of social, environmental and competitive advancement for the whole city and of the county, as a single unit.
“In view of the historic sharing of services which are currently being provided in the city but which are paid for by the count, for example the fire and library services, also in areas where government services are provided by agencies such as the IDA, Western Development Commission, the Gardai, a single point of administration working for Galway would surely be beneficial,” An Taisce have stated.
They have suggested developing a new headquarters at the empty Tara Hall in Mervue or the old Crown development site.