Plans set to be revived for directly elected mayors

Coveney signals intention to rekindle proposals for office holders in big urban centres

Simon Coveney:  Believed the test in 2014 set the bar too high. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Simon Coveney: Believed the test in 2014 set the bar too high. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Local Government Simon Coveney intends to resurrect plans for directly elected mayors in Dublin and other major urban centres during his term in office.

A previous Fine Gael minister Phil Hogan had advanced proposals for a directly elected mayor for the Dublin in 2014. But the plan had to be approved by a majority of councillors in each of the four Dublin local authorities. A majority of Fingal county councillors voted against and the proposal fell.

Mr Coveney said it is his intention to look at the area seriously again and he personally supports the idea.

The Minister said he believed the test in 2014 set the bar too high. It required all of the four councils to approve the plan individually. While there were decisive majorities backing the plans from Dublin City, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown, and South Dublin councils, the rejection from Fingal put an end to the proposal.

Mr Coveney said his approach this time would be different. “If we are going to have directly elected mayors, we need to get feedback form people as well as the council and then make a balanced decision

“From talking to councillors, some are in favour of it and some others are not and would like to stick to the traditional mayor or chairman.”

Biggest cities

“My personal view is that I am supportive of the concept of directly elected mayors. People will have more ownership of the position. Certainly in our bigger cities it makes sense to have a voice for the city as directly elected mayor.

“If it goes ahead it would have to be for a period of more than one year. We would certainly have it for 2½ years,” he said.

He said initially he will examine how the direct election would work best and what executive powers, if any, the office of the mayor would have.

The mayor of London has strong executive powers, but for a Dublin mayor to have similar powers, Mr Coveney and Government colleagues, especially Minister for Transport Shane Ross, would have to delegate some of their powers.

“It’s not a simple change . . . when you have been in local government as a councillor you will see why,” he said.

“I have an open mind on it . . . we need to speak to both councillors and to tease out the prose and cons.”

Mr Coveney said the last Fine Gael holder of his office, Phil Hogan, had done some excellent work, including transferring some budgetary powers to local authorities.