Dublin to elect mayor next year

 

Dublin will get its first directly elected mayor from next year, Minister for the Environment John Gormley announced today.

Mr Gormley said the move was the “most significant change to leadership in Dublin since the foundation of the State”.

The move was a key Green Party proposal in the programme for government agreed with Fianna Fáil in 2007.

Mr Gormley said next year would see the direct election by the people of the Dublin region of a “highly-visible and accountable mayor who will have the authority and powers to deliver real leadership for the city and region”.

“The mayor’s leadership will derive from a suite of substantial powers across the functions of local government.”

He said that by virtue of the breadth of the mayor’s democratic mandate, he or she would be “an extremely strong political voice speaking on behalf of Dubliners in local, regional and national politics”.

Under the plan, the new mayor will have responsibility for establishing strategic policy in relation to land-use planning, waste management, water services, and housing across the four major Dublin local authorities.

The mayor will also be chair of the Dublin Transport Authority, leading the Authority in delivering reliable, integrated and cost effective transport for the Greater Dublin Area, Mr Gormley said.

“I believe that the mayor can bring together a coherent approach to both land-use and transport policy in the Dublin in one office.”

He said he was confident the mayor would “raise the profile of Dublin, enhance local democracy and accountability, and lead the provision of a more effective and integrated public service across the city and region”.

“Since the publication of the green paper on local government in April last year, the economic downturn has created challenges which underline the need for greater accountability, responsiveness and efficiency across the public sector.

“The new mayor of Dublin will drive this work forward by supporting regional innovation and taking the initiative to respond in Dublin to global and national economic recovery, and wherever possible be the driver and leader locally of local development to hasten recovery.”

Fine Gael environment spokesman Phil Hogan said the capital needed a directly-elected mayor, but that the post must have “clearly defined, real responsibilities” and that it must be part of an overall reform of local government.

But he said the Minister’s proposal was “little more than half-baked” and would “fail miserably” as the question of where responsibilities would lie between the mayor, local authorities and central government was still “up in the air”.

He also said that holding the election next year, out of line with the regular local and European elections, made “absolutely no sense”.

Mr Gormley said last week he believed former taoiseach Bertie Ahern “has his eye” on the job.

Mr Ahern said last week the proposed establishment of a post of elected mayor of Dublin with executive powers would be of “immense value” to the city.

Asked if he was interested in becoming the city’s directly-elected mayor, he replied: “What I said last week was, I said that I thought it was a very interesting post, a very important post and that the kind of person who should get it was an experienced politician who was in love with their city.”

Asked if he wished to be included in that category he replied: “I wouldn’t have anything to say about that.”