South Dublin votes in favour of plebiscite

Councillors concerned about division of powers but prepared to ’let the people decide’

The council voted by 19 votes to 3, with one abstention, in favour of a plebiscite. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

The council voted by 19 votes to 3, with one abstention, in favour of a plebiscite. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Tue, Apr 1, 2014, 13:09

South Dublin County Council today voted overwhelmingly in favour of a plebiscite to allow voters to decide on whether there should be a directly elected mayor for Dublin.

The council voted by 19 votes to 3, with one abstention, in favour of a plebiscite.

Most councillors said the issue should be decided by the people and the question was whether the council trusted the electorate to have a vote on the issue.

William Lavelle (FG), who voted in favour of the plebiscite, reminded councillors it was expected to be five years at the earliest before the process was ready and the capital’s citizens would get a chance to vote for a directly elected mayor.

The councillors who voted against the plebiscite told the meeting there was still work needed to address questions as to what sort of directly elected mayor or mayoral council they could expect, particularly in relation to executive functions and staff back-up.

Opening the meeting Cathaoirleach Dermot Looney (Non-Party) said while there was much to be debated in the proposal, he was prepared to vote in favour of asking the people to decide.

Cllr Pamela Kearns (Lab) said she believed it was a simple issue: did the people have a democratic right, and was the council prepared to allow that right to be exercised?

Cathal King (SF) said Sinn Féin councillors would be supporting the proposal for a plebiscite, but he expressed concern about the division of powers between any new mayor and the current councils.

John Lahart (FF) said he believed the new mayor of Dublin could be a unifying force, while Guss O’Connell (Non-Party) also said he would support the plebiscite.

Cllr Emma Coburn (FG), who voted against the plebiscite, told the meeting that as Dublin was the capital city, there was a question as to whether every citizen in the State should be allowed to vote.

Cllr Paddy Cosgrave (Lab) also voted against and expressed concern that the new mayor would be financed by local property tax, which would also have to pay for another layer of civil servants.

Cllr Mick Duff (Lab), opposing the plan, said he also feared the impact of such a move on local taxes.