Debate over directly elected Dublin mayor heats up

Councils to vote on whether to put issue to citizens

 Oisín Quinn of Labour:  “There’s a huge number of things that a lot of cities do themselves and the time I think has come for Dublin to be given the opportunity to take a leap forward in terms of how it is run.” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Oisín Quinn of Labour: “There’s a huge number of things that a lot of cities do themselves and the time I think has come for Dublin to be given the opportunity to take a leap forward in terms of how it is run.” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Mon, Feb 10, 2014, 06:09


The current phase of the debate on a directly elected mayor for Dublin is coming rapidly to a head. At issue right now is whether Dubliners get to vote in three months on the principle of establishing such an office. This must be decided next month by the four local councils in Dublin.

The public vote would take place on May 23rd, the same day as the local and European elections. The notion of giving the people their say has many supporters but this is far from a done deal. A majority of the total membership of Dublin City, Fingal, South Dublin and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown councils would be required. This is quite a high threshold in the scheme of things, and the councils would cede significant responsibilities to a new mayor.

The actual executive powers of such an office are also under discussion. These would not be settled for some time, even if the vote goes ahead and the broad proposal is passed.

Yet friction is inevitable. Government too would lose power to a new mayor. Already there is talk of resistance to the notion of giving a new Dublin mayor powers that would easily trump those of Ministers. Quite how that plays out will be pivotal, even if detailed public discussion has been minimal thus far.

The basic aim, however, is to improve how the city is run. In essence, command of important services like transport would go a new figurehead with executive authority who is directly accountable to the people.

This is in vogue internationally. The most obvious examples are Boris Johnson in the relatively new office of London mayor and former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, who brought verve to that longer-established position.

There are degrees of power, of course, and that scope of any new mayoralty in Dublin would be central to its success or otherwise. But with cities and the metropolitan areas around them the main engine for growth in modern economies, the basic idea to achieve greater coherence over the running of the capital city.


‘Leap forward’
For advocates, this is an idea whose moment has come. “There’s a huge number of things that a lot of cities do themselves and the time I think has come for Dublin to be given the opportunity to take a leap forward in terms of how it is run,” says Dublin lord mayor Oisín Quinn, a Labour councillor.

“We have a very complicated decision-making structure for a lot of things that are very important to Dublin. Promoting Dublin from a tourist point of view isn’t done by any Dublin-focussed entity. Promoting Dublin from an economic-trade point of view isn’t done by any Dublin-focussed entity. Transport isn’t done by a Dublin entity.”

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