Saturday 22 October 2016

Christy Burke: 'So many have asked me to stay as Lord Mayor, it's blown me away'

As his highly-successful spell as Lord Mayor comes to a close, Christy Burke talks about his year at the Mansion House

Lord Mayor Christy Burke at the Mansion House
Lord Mayor Christy Burke at the Mansion House
Lord Mayor Christy Burke at work in his office

HE MAY be handing back the weighty gold mayor's chains but Lord Mayor Christy Burke is adamant that he is not going anywhere.

Mr Burke will return to his regular role as a city councillor for the north inner city next Monday and is looking forward to a let-up in his hectic schedule.

"Certainly it was a great honour and privilege to be Lord Mayor but I'm not going away, I'll return to my constituency as a normal councillor and work will continue," he said.

He accepted the mantle of the city's first citizen in June 2014 and on Monday night he will see his successor elected.

His tenure as Mayor was a "dream", he told the Herald.

"Every engagement was highlight and an honour," he said.

"I'm a long time in politics but you never know the significance of the Lord Mayor's office until you hit that office."

The string of awards ceremonies, official visits and other duties rarely lets up. Before he sits down to talk he took off the heavy chains with relief.


"I've had them on since seven this morning," he said with a smile.

He has received a stream of visitors all day including officers from the Mexican navy and students visiting from Co Meath.

He shows them the 1916 proclamation hanging on the wall in the Mayor's office.

His biggest regret at the end of his year in office is that he didn't succeed in securing a directly-elected mayor for the city.

"I'd love to see a directly-elected mayor. Over the last three weeks I do not know how many men and women have pleaded with me to stay as Lord Mayor - I'm blown apart by it," he admitted.

"I believe there should be a directly-elected mayor. Citizens should be able to choose him or her.

"We had our chance last year and we were let down by Fingal," he said.

"Phil Hogan, on his last day in office, called me in. He regretted miserably that it didn't go through. He asked me to continue the battle.

"Ministers are paranoid about losing their power to a mayor and that's where the problem lies. They need to wake up and realise that this city, as great and beautiful as it is, needs one."

But it is not just political change that eluded him in the past 12 months.

"One of the saddest parts of my term was that the Dubs didn't bring Sam last year - not through any fault of their own," he said with a smile.

"The players and management were 110pc and they put on a great display.

"We were looking forward to the celebrations in the round room. We had everything ready to go but, look, there's always this year," he added.

The Dubliner has always prided himself on being a man of the people - this year he has mixed with the city's homeless, prisoners and popstars - and he gives the impression that he could fit in with any group.

"I've the touch," he joked.

His path to the Mansion House, where he has slept for only two nights preferring his own home in Marino, has been unconventional.

As a young man he was an active member of the IRA. His activities with the republican group landed him in jail on more than one occasion. He also spent a month behind bars for protesting for the rights of Dublin's street traders.

In his own words he "went from Strumpet City to Trumpet City" and is set to pen a book telling his life story.

"I should have enough in it," he laughed and adds "I'm already an open book."

Though he will return to sitting on Dublin City Council as a representative for the north inner city Mr Burke has been direct about his political ambitions.

He will stand for general election next year, vying for a seat in Dublin central.

"Bertie's old stomping ground. I'll give it a lash anyways. I'm going to give it a go," he said.

After decades on the city council he is confident that he will be able to transition to national politics.


"All politics is local, it's just a bigger parliament," he said. "That's part of the problem. The system should work for everyone without a TD having to ask a question in parliament to get something done."

He has ruled out the prospect of joining any alliance of independents if he is elected to Leinster House.

"I wouldn't mind joining a party that has the interests of Joe and Mary citizen at heart but not one that is just about procrastination and broken promises - that's not me."

Despite his decades as a politician he hasn't lost the idealism that spurred him to join the IRA as a young man in the 1970s.

"I always gravitated to what I believed was injustice," he explained. "I'm not saying that the IRA was holier than thou, they were not. They made terrible mistakes but they were there to protect.

"They were there to protect Catholic families and nationalists who were being persecuted and I saw it myself."

There was "internment and brutality on all sides" during that period he said but the driving force for him was a desire to quell injustices.

"That's what I do today but I do it in a political manner and it works."

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