Why Sligo will never become a City

An aerial view of Sligo town Despite being heavily criticised in the past by visitors to this website, I have to say boldly that Sligo is a town, and will never gain City status.

On 30th March 1612, King James 1st, by Royal Charter, bestowed upon Sligo the status of a Corporate Town. "There shall be one body corporate and politic consisting of one Provost and twelve free Burgesses"

The new body was granted the "power and authority to return two discreet and fit men to serve and attend in every Parliament" Therefore the official answer to the age-old question remains that Sligo is officially a town and for the forseeable future will remain so.

But what precisely is the criteria involved in making a town become a city?

It has nothing to do with the population of Sligo, nor has it anything to do with the fact that there is a cathedral (or two) in Sligo.

So what is the official criteria for defining when a town is no longer a town, but a city?

Even the Department of the Environment, which is responsible for all local authorities in the country, said that for administrative purposes there are just five cities in the country, as laid out in the Local Government Act of 2001.

These Cities are; Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford.

The spokesperson said that other than that, they couldn't really say whether Sligo could be regarded as a city or not, because in this country there is no official criteria as such in terms of population or otherwise to define what is a city.

Local politician John Perry raised an adjournment debate in 1999, calling for Sligo to be declared a "millennium city", stating that "While the Government will probably say Sligo can call itself a city, an official declaration by the Government to declare Sligo the millennium city, will confer an official status on it".

The word 'city' has a certain meaning for investors. The requirement for a town to be called a city is that it must be a seat of government or a cathedral town.

"Sligo is sometimes called a town and sometimes a city. This leads to confusion and the region falls between both stools. An official declaration of Sligo as a millennium city would have major significance for the entire area. The word "city" has a certain meaning for investors. It presumes a certain level of services and a status towards which the world reacts very favourably".

The Fitzpatrick report established Sligo as a future growth centre. Even officials of the former Sligo Corporation were confused, because in certain instances Sligo is called a town and in others a city.

Declan Bree, mayor of the town in 2005, advocated "Sligo gaining city status similar to Limerick, Galway and Waterford." The "town council" and "county council" both held meetings to plan an expansion of the borough boundaries with a view to enhancing the prospects for such a change.

The main building of the former Sligo Borough Council was and still is called "City Hall", there are road signs declaring the "City Loop", we had for many years a "Gateway City" status. So is it any wonder people are confused, even local people don't actually know for sure whether they live in a town or a city, some prefer Sligo a city as they like the sound of it, or because they believe "City Status" has something to do with having a Cathedral, a University or even a certain population density, though the hard and fast fact is that Sligo is "officially" a town.

Academics from Dublin Institute of Technology and the Urban Forum claimed that even if Sligo's population doubles over the next 20 years it will not become a city.

They went on to say that Sligo and other so-called "Gateway Cities" cannot grow enough to become "cities", they not only say that Sligo isn't a "city", they reckon it will never be one.

So, does it really matter that much whether we are called a town or a city?

Kilkenny with a population of 22,000 it is always referred to as a City - you never hear it being called Kilkenny Town, though strickly speaking, Kilkenny is no longer a city - though is entitled by law to described itself as such, as King James in 1609 declared Kilkenny a city by Royal Charter, though the Department of the Environment refer to Kilkenny as being "officially" a town.

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This page was last updated on Thursday 5 May 2016.

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