Low support for proposal for directly elected Dubin mayor

May 2014 referendum will not go ahead if any of four councils votes down proposal

The Mansion House,  residence of Dublin’s lord mayor

The Mansion House, residence of Dublin’s lord mayor

Sat, Dec 7, 2013, 07:53

Opposition to proposals for a directly elected mayor for Dublin is growing among councillors in the city, potentially throwing next year’s planned referendum on the question into doubt.

The Irish Times has learned that a private meeting of councillors in Fingal earlier this week heard “almost unanimous” opposition to the plans.

Each of the four councils in the Dublin area – Fingal, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Dublin City and South Dublin – must pass the proposals before they are put to Dubliners in a vote, which is scheduled to take place next May on the same day as the local and European elections.

However, the plans as currently constituted are meeting stiff opposition, especially in Fingal, where a meeting to discuss them took place last Monday. All but one of the 16 councillors present, out of 24 on Fingal County Council, expressed opposition or reservations.

The mayor of Fingal, Fine Gael’s Kieran Dennison, yesterday told a Fingal Dublin Chamber of Commerce Christmas lunch that the existing plans “effectively shoehorn the democratically elected mayor’s office and his cabinet into the current system of local government”.

While he said he supported the “concept of a democratically elected mayor for Dublin, based on the US model which has an executive mayor with a small number of councillors”, he said was not what was currently being proposed.

Mr Dennison, a Mulhuddart- based councillor, also warned that the “280,000 population of Fingal would be swamped by the majority population in the Dublin region and that is something our councillors will have to consider before subjecting them to a plebiscite”.

Another Fine Gael councillor, Skerries-based Tom O’Leary, said: “Fingal councillors met last Monday and the position of those not in favour of the current proposal was nearly unanimous.

“Get it right and maybe then put it to the electorate. It does not necessarily need to be put to the voters next June.

“We could wait until the next list of referendums later in 2014 or in early 2015, but at the moment, Fingal councillors are not happy,” he said.

A decision on whether a plebiscite is to be held has to be made by March, but the opposition in Fingal is cross-party.

Fianna Fáil’s Eoghan O’Brien said it could be the “first step towards restoring the one local authority. What is being proposed is a minister for Dublin with 10 times the power of a normal minister.”

Labour’s Ciarán Byrne said it would decrease the strength of local decision-making in Dublin.

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