Bill to introduce directly elected Dublin mayor progresses

Damien English indicates support for move but says Fianna Fáil Bill lacks specifics

Fianna Fáil spokesman for Dublin John Lahart said the BIll provided for a plebiscite of Dublin voters. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil spokesman for Dublin John Lahart said the BIll provided for a plebiscite of Dublin voters. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The possibility of a directly elected mayor for Dublin is back on the agenda following confirmation in the Dáil that the Government will allow a Fianna Fáil Bill progress to committee stage.

Minister of State for Housing Damien English said the Government wanted to strengthen local authorities and increase the powers of their members.

He said the Department of Local Government would focus in the coming months on measures to enhance leadership and accountability in local government including directly elected mayors.

Mr English said he understood and appreciated the intent of the Fianna Fáil Bill. However, he said it did not set out the range of functions devolved to the mayor nor did it explain how the establishment of such an office would affect existing local government arrangements.

Introducing the Local Government Reform (Amendment) (Directly Elected Mayor of Dublin) Bill Fianna Fáil TD John Lahart said it provided for a plebiscite of Dublin voters.

They would determine if legislation should be introduced to provide for a directly elected mayor who would be chairperson and leader of an authority or other body for the Dublin metropolitan area.

The plebiscite, he said, would be held no later than May 2018, with the first directly-elected mayor taking office in 2019 at the time of the local elections.

If it was passed, elections for a mayor would be held in conjunction with the local and European elections in 2019, he added.

Support

Sinn Féin, Labour and Independent TDs have also supported the legislation.

Sinn Féin local government spokesman Eoin Ó Broin confirming his party’s support, said council management have the powers they have because government has decided against real devolution of power to local authorities.

He said the party had long believed in directly elected mayors as part of “real local government reform devolving powers and functions downwards”.

Labour local government spokeswoman Jan O’Sullivan said the Bill was without any details of the functions of the mayor.

She pointed out that there would be a population growth of 500,000 over 20 years and that had to be planned for. Her party had long believed that “all medium-sized towns should have directly elected mayors with dedicated budgets”.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who will introduce legislation in the Dáil on Wednesday for a directly elected mayor, said one of the questions the public ask is about costs. His party’s proposal was to deal with the issue “without expense” and without a plebiscite, but through legislation.