FORMER Lord Mayor of Cork Joe O'Callaghan has become the first person to declare their intention to run for a seat on the new expanded Cork City Council following the addition of large suburban areas like Blarney, Ballincollig and Glanmire.
The Government this week published the redrawn wards for the council following the decision to expand the city. The current six local electoral areas have been reduced to five through the removal of the North Central ward. Despite the city's population almost doubling, the number of city councillors will remain at 31.
It means the council elections taking place next May will be hotly contested with a number of county councillors from suburban areas expected to declare their intention to switch to the city targeting the seats of current councillors.
Fine Gael's Joe O'Callaghan who lost his seat in the North West ward in 2014 told the Evening Echo he will seek the party's nomination to contest the election. He welcomed the decision to add Blarney to the ward which currently covers Knocknaheeny, Sunday's Well, Gurranabraher and Fair Hill.
Mr O'Callaghan is from Blarney and still lives in the town but previously represented both the old North Central and North West wards.
He said he knows the operational functions of City Hall which would be a huge advantage to the new Blarney area and that any candidate looking to get elected from the ward would need the support of the city and county areas.
"I see huge potential for the proper growth of Blarney as a jewel in the city's crown from a tourism and development opportunity," he said.
"Blarney and its hinterland require urgent attention and finance to repair roads, even in the village which is traversed by over half a million tourists each year. The long-running saga of the vacant former Blarney Park Hotel, eight acres in the middle of the village needs to be brought to a head. Also, as the area is most attractive for families early provision of a new Primary School is a necessity," Mr O'Callaghan said.
"The quota for a seat will be 6,600 and any candidate would need support from both city and county, I would hope to acquire this.