Fingal council set to block referendum on directly elected mayor for Dublin

Mayor Kieran Dennison says he wants to ‘protect minority against majority’

Plans to give Dublin a directly elected mayor are set to be dropped without being put to a referendum, as councillors in Fingal are expected to veto the proposal that would transform government in the city.

The members of the four Dublin local authorities will decide this month whether the proposal will be put to a plebiscite of Dublin residents on May 23rd.

If any one of the four councils votes against holding the referendum, the proposition of having a directly elected mayor for Dublin will be dropped.

The mayor of Fingal, Fine Gael councillor Kieran Dennison, said he would be voting against putting the proposal to the public, and he expected the majority of Fingal councillors would do the same.


Mr Dennison is the only one of the four Dublin mayors opposing the plebiscite. The three other local authorities look likely to vote in favour.

“My concern is for the minority in Dublin. It’s about protecting the minority against the decisions of the majority,” Mr Dennison said.

He said he was conscious that in the run-up to the local elections, councillors might worry that preventing the public from voting would be unpopular.

“It takes a certain amount of courage for the council to do the right thing. It would be easy to run a plebiscite but I think that would be wrong.”

Independent Fingal councillor Cian O’Callaghan, who is in favour of holding the referendum, said he believed his fellow councillors were likely to vote against it. “There would be councillors who have spent a long time developing a separate identity for Fingal. They would have less of an affinity with the rest of the city and would be more rural in their identity.”

He said he still hoped Fingal councillors would allow citizens to make the decision themselves, but it would be by the “closest of margins” if they voted to allow the plebiscite.

“I think the people of Dublin will take a very dim view of any councillor who stops the plebiscite from going ahead.”

A high threshold has been set by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan: a majority of the council membership in each local authority must vote in favour rather than just a majority of councillors who turn up. Mr Hogan has also raised concerns around the funding of the new office, stating that the proposed retention of 100 per cent of the Local Property Tax returns in Dublin would run contrary to national policy, which proposes 80 per cent be retained locally.

The largest local authority, Dublin City Council, will be the first to vote on March 24th. The three other councils will vote on March 31st.

South Dublin's mayor, Independent councillor Dermot Looney, said many councillors had "not really engaged with the issue" but he believed they were broadly supportive of holding the plebiscite.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown mayor Carrie Smyth said the council had "not discussed it as a group", but her feeling was they would vote in favour.

Dublin City Council, led by Lord Mayor Oisín Quinn, has been most vocal in support of the plan to hold a referendum.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times