The Government is next week expected to give the go-ahead for directly elected mayors in Dublin and Cork by mid-2019.
A memorandum recommending the establishment of the office in the State’s two largest cities will be brought before Cabinet next week.
It comes on the back of a report commissioned by John Paul Phelan, the Minister of State for Local Government, which examined the experience of mayors with executive powers in other countries.
The report is believed to have concluded the current situation has left both cities at a competitive disadvantage with similar-size cities in Britain and in Europe, in terms of strategic planning, transport, tourism and attracting foreign business.
At present Dublin county has four separate mayors, each being year-long honorary positions. Similarly, the role of Cork’s mayor is also largely ceremonial and lasts for a year.
The plan for both cities will be based around an enlarged metropolitan area for which the mayor has responsibility. In Dublin it will include all four local authorities, as well as the parts of counties Kildare, Meath and Wicklow in the commuter belt. In Cork, it will extend well beyond the current city boundaries.
All the local authorities in both cities will remain as they were and each will continue to have honorary mayors. A special regional assembly will also be established to provide a democratic forum for the mayor’s office.
The new mayors will have specified executive powers which will be limited initially but can be expanded, as happened in London
One of the proposals being recommended is that they would be elected on a “list” system. This would allow the election of specialists for the mayor’s cabinet.
System of voting
Plebiscites are not expected to take place in both cities next year to approve the concept of directly elected mayors for the cities and to decide on the system of voting. The Government has provisionally scheduled for the plebiscites to take place in October 2019. The elections are earmarked to take place at the same time as the local and European elections in the summer of 2019, with the mayor being elected for a five-year term.
The new mayors will have specified executive powers which will be limited initially but can be expanded, as happened in London. The mayor’s office, which will also have a “cabinet”, will have overarching strategic responsibility for planning and development, as well as in transport, marketing, tourism and attracting industry.
Mr Phelan, a Fine Gael deputy for Carlow-Kilkenny, also examined the feasibility of directly elected mayors for other cities such as Galway, Limerick and Waterford. However, on the evidence available, he concluded that the office only became effective when the population of a city neared 500,000. While Cork is somewhat below this, Mr Phelan was of the opinion it was sufficiently large to justify an executive mayor.
The Minister has also examined the concept of metropolitan areas, that extend beyond the boundaries of former city councils.
It is understood that another report commissioned by Mr Phelan has recommended that Galway City and County Councils be merged. However, such an amalgamation – as has already happened in Waterford and Limerick – will be subject to political approval.