Dublin mayor must have greater power and resources, citizens’ assembly hears

Central government needs to be prepared to ‘loosen its vice-like grip’

A directly elected mayor for Dublin should be given enough power to see through major projects, the citizens’ assembly has heard.

Equally, central government must be prepared to devolve more power to local government, potentially in relation to housing and transport, the assembly was told at a meeting on Sunday.

The Dublin Citizens’ Assembly has been convened to examine local government structures and to decide what type of directly elected mayor would suit the region best. By October they will develop a draft report for the Oireachtas to consider.

Dr Aodh Quinlivan from UCC said the central government will need a change of mindset to allow a mayor’s success. “A directly elected mayor for Dublin will have limited value unless that person has the power and resources to implement decisions.”

Local authorities could be given more devolved powers, such as housing and transport.

“Central government has to be prepared to loosen its vice-like grip and let go.”

A wider debate on the role of local government and the job description of councillors should be considered, he added.

According to research by the Association of Irish Local Government, the typical councillors currently put in 30 hours per week, even though it is supposed to be a part-time job. “They hold clinics, engage in local constituency work, they have to be knowledgeable of local government matters, but in truth they are probably also social workers, psychologists, there can be an enormous emotional toll of what they do...they are constantly firefighting.”

Dr Sean O’Riordain, a public management consultant, said foreign companies doing business in Ireland for the first time are surprised they must meet with the council’s chief executive (an unelected civil servant), rather than a directly elected mayor, as is the European norm.

He said this regional assembly could also be in charge of long-term planning.