The Irish Times view on Dublin City Council’s inter-party agreement: a model for a future government?

The Greens, Labour and the Social Democrats share similar positions on a range of issues and could be well-placed to see those translated into policies by the next government

Minister for Children and Equality Roderic O'Gormanis running for the leadership of the Green Party. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

It is a measure of the weakness of local government in Ireland that so much more attention has been devoted to the implications of the recent elections for the larger contest to come than on the direct consequences for local authorities themselves over the next five years

One area where councillors do have some power is in deciding whether or not to vary the rate of local property tax (LPT), which they can raise or lower by 15 per cent. Even the most cursory examination of the quality of services available in the capital makes it hard to argue that Dublin City Council (DCC) is adequately financed. Yet since the introduction of the measure more than 10 years ago, councillors have always voted for the maximum discount.

In the immediate aftermath of the elections on June 7th, there was some prospect that DCC would be controlled by a left-leaning “progressive alliance” led by the Social Democrats and Sinn Féin. But that foundered when Labour and the Green Party withdrew over Sinn Féin’s opposition to an LPT increase. Instead they negotiated an arrangement with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil that will see the LPT rise in 2026.

LPT is an imperfect revenue-raising mechanism and a reasonable argument can be made that a site value tax would be preferable, along with greater budgetary discretion for local authorities. But a property tax of some sort is an important part of any stable, equitable and broadly-based taxation system, a fact recognised in most European countries, where it is generally levied at a higher rate than in Ireland. It is a peculiarity of parts of the Irish left that they continue to decry LPT, and it is one of the issues that divides the three centre-left parties – Labour, the Greens and the Social Democrats – from Sinn Féin and People Before Profit.


Inter-party negotiations at local level are often more pragmatic and less ideological than is the case with government formation. But the Dublin example may offer some indications of the role the same three parties could play in the next Dáil. Green Party leadership candidate Roderic O’Gorman says he wants to see the parties who are “willing to take on the responsibilities of government” come together after the election to discuss whether a set of principles can be agreed.

Two years ago, with Sinn Féin riding high in opinion polls, the possibility that it would lead a left-wing coalition was held out by some commentators. That looks less likely now, as does any prospect of a formal agreement of any sort between any of the centre-left parties in advance of an election. What is clear, though, is that between them, the three parties share similar positions on a range of issues and could be well-placed to see those translated into policies by the next government. That is more likely to be achieved if they present a coherent, united front.