Dublin city councillors in favour of mayoral plebiscite
50 out of 52 councillors want public vote to go ahead
Mannix Flynn: while he had concerns about the costs of the office, he was a supporter of the idea of a mayor and of the vote going ahead. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
Dublin city councillors have resoundingly endorsed the proposal to allow Dubliners to vote on whether the capital should have a directly elected mayor.
Councillors in the other three local authorities in the Dublin region could yet veto the plan, but last night’s vote in Dublin City Council was one of the greatest displays of near-unanimity ever shown, with 50 of the 52 members voting to allow the mayoral proposal to be put to a plebiscite of Dublin residents on May 23rd. No councillor voted against. Former Labour councillor Paddy Bourke, who recently became an Independent, abstained, while there was one absentee from the council chamber, Fine Gael’s Bill Tormey.
The city council’s endorsement lends weight to the prospect of a public vote being held. However, the other three Dublin local authorities have yet to vote on the issue and could still block the plebiscite from going ahead. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, South Dublin and Fingal will all hold their votes on March 31st. If any one of the three votes against holding the public vote, the proposition of having a directly elected mayor for Dublin will be dropped. A majority of the council membership in each authority must vote in favour, rather than just a majority of councillors who turn up to vote.
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and South Dublin councillors are expected to approve the plan, albeit by a slimmer margin that the city council, but Fingal looks likely to veto the plan. This high threshold that must be passed was set deliberately to block the office being created, Labour city councillor Dermot Lacey claimed. “Democracy demands the people of Dublin be given their say . . . I believe it would wipe the smug faces off the civil servants who slipped in this blocking mechanism late in the day.”
Mr Bourke said “cute old Phil” had not agreed to give any powers to the mayor. “In my view we have nothing to put to the people except a new office that will cost money. I don’t think we should be offering a pig in a poke to the people of Dublin.”
Independent councillor Nial Ring said Phil Hogan’s “anti- Dublin” bias was behind the attempt to block the plebiscite. “Phil Hogan is a bully using his jackboot tactics to try to stymie what is pure democracy.”
Fianna Fáil councillor Mary Fitzpatrick said the proposal had been “designed to fail”. While the opportunity for real local government reform had been missed, she was in favour of the plebiscite going ahead. Sinn Féin councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha said the election of a mayor would give “a real opportunity for local democracy, rather than local administration, for the first time.”
Fine Gael councillor Ruairí McGinley said it would be a backward step if the vote did not go ahead. “If Dublin wants to remain vital, this is a critically important office.” Labour’s Pádraig McLoughlin said he was against having a mayor but for the people having the right to vote.
Independent Mannix Flynn said while he had concerns about the costs of the office, he was a supporter of the idea of a mayor and of the vote going ahead. Labour councillor Andrew Montague said a directly elected mayor would help stimulate Dublin’s economy and create jobs.