Dublin’s 840,000-strong electorate has been blocked from voting on whether they should have a directly elected mayor after one of the region’s four local authorities rejected the holding of a plebiscite.
Fingal county councillors yesterday vetoed plans to put the mayoral proposal to a plebiscite on May 23rd, the same day as the local and European elections. Of the 24 members of the council, 16 voted against, six voted in favour and two abstained.
The three other Dublin local authorities all emphatically supported the plebiscite. However, the legislation which provided for a directly elected mayor required at least half of the members of each council to vote in favour of the proposition.
Dublin City Council was the first to vote, last week resoundingly endorsing the plebiscite, with 50 of its 52 councillors voting Yes, and none opposing it.
The 26-member South Dublin council yesterday voted in favour of allowing the plebiscite by 19 to 3. In Dún Laoghaire- Rathdown, 23 of the 28 councillors voted in favour and none opposed it.
Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan last night confirmed the plebiscite would not go ahead.
"It was a matter for the elected members to form their own views, and it is clear that there is not a consensus across the Dublin authorities that would enable a plebiscite to be held."
It had been “necessary” to set a high requirement for the proposal to be put to a public vote, he said, to ensure that there was “genuine political consensus” on the issue. He said he respected the councillors’ decision.
“I gave the opportunity to the elected members to develop a proposal for a plebiscite. They have not achieved a consensus, and further assessment of options must await the new councils to be elected in May.”
However, Lord Mayor of Dublin Oisín Quinn appealed to the Government to go ahead with the vote in May.
“Dublin should not be held back by small-minded parochial arguments. By not facilitating a plebiscite, the Government would be ignoring its policy of ‘putting people first’ . . . I hope there will be common sense shown on this matter, and democracy be facilitated on this important question which will impact on Dublin’s economic and social development.”
Mr Quinn, who had headed a forum of councillors tasked by Mr Hogan with formulating proposals for the new office, said there had been a clear majority of councillors in favour.
“It is wrong to allow a small number of councillors, principally on Fingal County Council, to frustrate the democratic process largely out of an outdated desire to protect a perceived separate identity.
“Dublin and Fingal should not be in competition or seen to be in competition. No single group should be given a veto on reform.”