Dublin mayor vote may get reprieve from Fingal

Fianna Fáil set to vote in favour of plebiscite

A file picture of councillor Ruth Coppinger. She has said the  Socialist Party did not want to block Dubliners from voting. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

A file picture of councillor Ruth Coppinger. She has said the Socialist Party did not want to block Dubliners from voting. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Fri, Mar 28, 2014, 01:00

A Fianna Fáil group vote to allow Dubliners to decide whether they want a directly elected mayor could push the prospect through Fingal County Council next Monday.

The north Dublin local authority had looked set to reject plans to hold a plebiscite on the mayoral proposal on May 23rd, with even those in favour of the public vote pessimistic about its chances.

However, support is mounting, with at least seven councillors of the 12 needed to pass the proposal now planning to vote Yes, and many of the 24 Fingal members have yet to show their hand.

Half the councillors in each of the four Dublin local authorities must vote in favour for the plebiscite to go ahead. The city council is the only one to have voted so far and resoundingly endorsed the proposal, with 50 of the 52 members voting for the plebiscite and no councillor voting against.

Fingal, South Dublin and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown local authorities will hold their meetings on Monday.


Leading the charge
Fingal’s Fine Gael mayor Kieran Dennison has been leading the charge against the plebiscite. Of the five Fine Gael councillors on Fingal, he and his colleagues Tom O’Leary and Anthony Lavin have said they will vote No.

Joan Maher told The Irish Times she was a “95 per cent No”, while Eithne Loftus described herself as undecided but leaning towards a No.

Fianna Fáil’s David McGuinness said “narrow-mindedness” should not prevent Dubliners from exercising their vote. “I think it would be unbelievable if the narrow-mindedness of some north Dublin councillors, who for some reason don’t seem to see themselves as Dubliners but detached from Dublin, stopped the people of Dublin from having their say.”

Mr McGuinness said he was confident his three Fianna Fáil colleagues would vote in favour. Eoghan O’Brien said he would not reveal his decision until Monday, while the other two, Darragh Butler and Mags Murray, could not be contacted yesterday.

The Socialist Party is the only council group to have declared a consensus, with all three councillors planning to vote Yes. Ruth Coppinger said while there was “no appetite” for the mayoral proposal, the party did not want to block Dubliners from voting.

Cian O’Callaghan (Ind) declared himself in the Yes camp early in the process.


Labour split
This all puts the ball firmly in Labour’s court. The party, the largest on the council with six seats, is split. Judy Dunne said councillors had their say on the forum which formulated proposals for the office, and it was now time for the electorate to have their say.

Michael O’Donovan said he was “not greatly enamoured” by the mayor proposals, but he was also likely to vote Yes.

However one of the most staunchly opposed to the proposal is Labour councillor Ciarán Byrne. “The office of directly elected mayor offers no real devolution of power to local government, but will involve the transfer of Fingal’s senior management structures and powers to the mayor.”

Tom Kelleher and Gerry McGuire yesterday were undecided on how they would vote, while the remaining Labour councillor, Mary McCamley, could not be contacted.

If Fianna Fáil does vote in favour, that would put 10 councillors in the Yes camp, two short of what is needed for the proposition to stand. However with four declaring themselves undecided, including Independent David O’Connor, and the views of a further seven unknown, the vote could yet scrape through.