Varadkar calls for elected mayor for all of Dublin with strong executive powers
Minister says change to executive mayor would require radical change to local government
The Liffey in Dublin. Mr Varadkar said Dublin was not in competition with Cork or Belfast, but with cities such as Tel Aviv, Copenhagen and Barcelona
Dublin should have a directly elected mayor with strong executive powers similar to those of the mayor of London Boris Johnson, Minister for Transport and Tourism Leo Varadkar has said.
Mr Varadkar said that without such an arrangement Dublin would lose out to other cities in Europe.
A Dáil deputy for Dublin West, Mr Varadkar also said that the change to an executive mayor in charge of all of Dublin city and county would also require radical change to local government in Dublin.
He favours one overall council for Dublin replacing the current four local authorities, with smaller neighbourhood councils as they have in London.
“We are increasingly becoming a world of cities. Dublin is at a disadvantage to other cities like London, Paris, and smaller cities like Copenhagen,” he said in an interview with The Irish Times.
He said he was not in favour of the model that was put forward by the minister for the environment in the last government, John Gormley, which Mr Varadkar described as a “chairman mayor” presiding over the four existing local authorities.
“I would like to see something more on the London model where there is a real mayor with real executive power,” he said.
The current Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisín Quinn, is due to host a series of symposia on an elected mayor, and the issue may be put to Dublin voters in a plebiscite next year.
Mr Varadkar argued that if it were to be done in a meaningful way it would necessitate the transfer of significant powers to the mayor’s office, including transport, policing and planning.
“There is always going to be resistance to that in central government and from politicians,” he admitted.
Mr Varadkar has said he has asked his official in the Department of Transport and Tourism to go through all its functions and look at those that could be devolved to a Dublin mayor.
“There are some which are more national, such as Dublin Airport. Luas is an obvious one that is only for Dublin, as is Dublin Bus... there is a need for somebody who is promoting Dublin as a city. You could have a mayor’s office that could promote Dublin as a tourist destination against its real competitors.
“I think that it is something that could be a very exciting proposal if there was a political willingness to do it,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said that it had to be realised that Dublin was not in competition with Cork or Belfast, but with cities such as Tel Aviv, Copenhagen and Barcelona.
Asked how would county and city managers fit into this scenario, he said the model in government departments was not a bad one, where there was a minister and a secretary general. He also said that a decent term would be required, saying that logically it would be five years.