herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Andrew Lynch: Are these jokers the only ones who want €200k a year Dublin mayor job?

Wanted: a credible candidate for the new position of Dublin's first ever directly elected mayor. Energy, imagination and an ability to knock heads together would all be considered advantages. Taking the job seriously, however, would at least be a start.

We're now just a few months away from what should be one of the most exciting electoral contests in the history of our capital city.

At this stage, however, the brainchild of Green Party leader John Gormley is still in a state of shambles.

Not only are the declared candidates a ragtag bunch of nonentities who appear to be more interested in massaging their egos than anything else, it is still completely unclear what the eventual winner will be able to do.

Like most things in politics, it comes down to money.

By Mr Gormley's own admission, the new mayor will have no discretionary budget and will only be able to "generate policy" across Dublin's four existing local authorities.

This leaves the door wide open to chancers who are only interested in the ministerial-size salary, the trappings of office and the chance to swan about town, as opposed to serious politicians who genuinely want to transform our antiquated system of local government.

The obvious benchmark is the position of London mayor, which was created a decade ago and is widely regarded as a resounding success.

That's because the two men who have held the job, Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson, are both political heavyweights who made it clear from day one that they would not be pushed around





Controversial

Between them they have pushed through a series of radical changes, such as the controversial congestion charge, the banning of alcohol on public transport ,and even the forced resignation of the London Metropolitan Police commissioner, Ian Blair.

Mayor Boris also makes guest appearances on Have I Got News For You and EastEnders, of course -- but when you've got substantial policy achievements to your name, people are prepared to tolerate a certain amount of celebrity moonlighting.

Who can we offer by comparison? The name most commonly mentioned is Bertie Ahern, but he says he won't be interested unless the job comes with serious powers -- which presumably means the ability to raise taxes. That's probably a wise move, since in the current economic climate Bertie would struggle to be elected dogcatcher in Drumcondra.

Since the Greens came up with the idea in the first place, you might think they could come up with at least one decent possibility.

So far, however, the rumours about television presenter and environmental campaigner Duncan Stewart have come to nothing. That leaves them with Paul Gogarty, who says he is thinking of running but whose recent "F**k you!" outburst in the Dail suggests that he has a lot of growing up to do first.

The bookies' favourites at this stage are the former Labour Minister for Finance Ruairi Quinn (5/2) and Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell (3/1), who both start out with the advantage that nobody would actually burst out laughing at the thought.

However, there is no guarantee at all that either of these formidable politicians wants to swap a real job for a paper one.

Mr Quinn still has ambitions to become a Cabinet minister, while Mitchell is an impressive vote-getter but seems quite happy in Brussels.

That leaves us with the awful prospect of an autumn election dominated by clowns, egotists and bandwagon jumpers.





Glorious

If it all comes down to a choice between Royston Brady, George Hook and Dustin the Turkey, then staying at home will be the only sane option and a glorious opportunity will have been missed for a generation or more.

The whole idea of a directly elected mayor is threatening to become a bit of a joke. Unless a serious candidate steps forward soon, many people will start to think we might be better off not having a mayor at all.

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