herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

Government will bid to stall directly elected mayor talks

Damien English Picture: Collins
Damien English Picture: Collins

Moves by Fianna Fail to immediately begin work on paving the way for a directly elected mayor of Dublin are being opposed by the Government.

Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance want to stall the debate until June 30 next year in order to give Local Government Minister Simon Coveney time to compile his own report on the issue.

The Programme for Government allows for what junior minister Damien English described as "the next wave of local government reform".

This involves a report to Government and the Oireachtas by mid-2017 on potential measures to boost local government leadership and accountability.

Appreciate

The programme also makes reference to the concept of a directly elected mayor in other cities outside of the capital.

"I understand and appreciate the intention of the Bill before the House, which seeks to put in place a process that will allow the electorate the opportunity to consider the establishment of a directly elected mayor for Dublin," Mr English said.

"A consultation process would first be undertaken, leading to proposals being presented to both Houses later in 2017 that would then require a positive resolution of both Houses before being put for decision in a plebiscite of the Dublin electorate to be held no later than May 2018."

Fianna Fail's John Lahart, who has proposed the Bill, said: "Currently Dublin has four local authorities, four chief executives, four mayors, 183 councillors, and countless State agencies in Dublin, often competing against each other rather than together.

"A directly elected mayor would provide singular leadership to this structure."

He described the Bill as "clear and concise".

"Once the process is approved, the people of Dublin - stakeholders and citizens with an interest in the future of the capital - will be empowered through the public consultation process embedded in the proposal," he said.

Vote

The Bill may still pass a Dail vote tomorrow as it has the support of Sinn Fein.

Separately, Labour leader Brendan Howlin has said he and his colleagues should have "done more" to prevent the abolition of town councils. The party is to table its own legislation aimed at reinstating them.

In an email to party members, Mr Howlin describes the move as a "mistake".

"We should have done more to prevent Fine Gael from abolishing this layer of local government," the email said. "We are currently drafting a Bill that will establish directly elected councils in all medium-sized towns, with dedicated budgets and mayors."

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