Directly-elected Dublin mayor a ‘stupid idea’, says Bertie Ahern

Former taoiseach calls the upcoming mayoral election in Limerick a ‘mistake’, questioning powers of new office

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has described the upcoming mayoral election in Limerick as a “mistake” and described the notion of a directly elected mayor in Dublin as a “stupid idea”.

The former Lord Mayor of Dublin was speaking at a discussion on the merits of having a directly elected mayor of Dublin.

Though the Citizens’ Assembly voted in 2022 that Dublin should have a directly-elected mayor with executive powers, the question is yet to be put to voters in the capital.

The mayor would have competencies in the city over 15 areas which include housing, transport, infrastructure, climate change, the night time economy and childcare.


Mr Ahern, who has voiced opposition to the prospect in the past, said “I wish Limerick well” but “they made a mistake. I just don’t see it as being a good idea.”

The debate, which was hosted by the Urban Land Institute, comes as Limerick voters are due to head to the polls to elect the first directly elected mayor in the history of the State on June 7th.

Mr Ahern described the prospect of a similar move in Dublin as a “stupid” idea.

“I don’t see how it would work, quite honestly,” he said, adding that he did not believe issues such as childcare or transport could be effectively managed by a proposed mayor or local authority.

“This hasn’t been thought out, it hasn’t been thought out in 20 years,” he said adding that he “readily admits” that he did nothing for it to be advanced.

Mr Ahern suggested a “Minister for the Greater Dublin Area”, in the short term as a more appropriate alternative.

However, Mr Ahern conceded that the Irish system is “over-centralised”, adding that it is “wrong” that the chief executives of local authorities such as Dublin City Council have to “go around and beg and plead for money”.

“The Government system is all the time taking away powers, giving them no revenue, no taxes,” he said.

The former taoiseach said a local tax should be introduced to give more control to local authorities.

Noting that legislation providing for directly elected mayors was passed in 2001, Dr Aodh Quinlivan, director of the Centre for Local and Regional Governance at University College Cork said there did not seem to be a willingness at central Government level to progress it.

Mr Quinlivan added that it is “very hard” to find someone who cannot only win an election but also run an organisation with executive powers and big budgets.

Mr Quinlivan said it would be preferable for Limerick’s local government to have the power to solve its own problems, “not sending a directly elected mayor to Dublin with a begging bowl.”

Jack White

Jack White

Jack White is a reporter for The Irish Times