herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Public vote could give Dublin a directly-elected mayor by 2019

Dublin Lord Mayor Brendan Carr
Dublin Lord Mayor Brendan Carr

Dublin could have its first directly-elected mayor by the next local and European elections in 2019.

Councillors from across the four Dublin area local authorities yesterday informally agreed to put the issue to Dublin voters in a plebiscite late next year or in 2018.

The issue was the subject of a round-table discussion between local councillors, TDs and senators, hosted by the current Dublin Lord Mayor Brendan Carr and Senator Kevin Humphreys at the Mansion House. They agreed to meet again in January to discuss the matter further.

Veto

Despite what participants agreed was widespread popular support for a directly-elected mayor, a previous attempt at a referendum on the issue was scuppered in March 2014 when Fingal County Council used its power of veto to reject a public vote on the issue - even though there was overwhelming support by the three other Dublin councils.

However, politicians attending the all-party discussion yesterday agreed the issue needs to be revisited.

Former Dublin Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn - who pushed for the creation of a democratically-elected mayor's role when he held the office in 2013 - said there had been widespread support for an elected mayor with executive powers at the time.

A recent poll commissioned by Mr Humphreys on behalf of the Labour party showed the public support was still there, he added.

The telephone poll by Ireland Thinks found 74pc of Dubliners back a directly-elected mayor.

"Dubliners by clear majority are very much in favour of this reform. People don't know who makes a lot of the decisions that affect their lives," Mr Quinn told the panel.

However, he warned the biggest hurdle is getting politicians at Leinster House and their civil servants to warm to the idea.

"There's no doubt it's seen by some politicians as a threat to the rest of Ireland," he said.

While the four main political parties all support the concept of a directly-elected mayor, Fianna Fail Senator Gerry Horkan said: "It could be fantastic but it needs a lot of teasing out."

Some Dubliners said the time is long overdue for a democratically elected mayor.

Leadership

"Bring it on," said visual artist Camilla Fanning (53), from Dun Laoghaire.

"Dublin needs leadership. It needs vision, it needs someone who gives a toss and to act on their ideas.

"Every city that has a directly-elected mayor does better and I would love it."

Ryan Veitch (22), a software support engineer from Finglas, agreed. "I think the people should be able to choose who they wish to represent them at any level."

Graphic designer Emma Fenlon (29), from Kilmainham, said: "We're due something new in the government. Every other major city has one."

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