An elected mayor for Dublin?
Sir, – On Monday, all four of the Dublin’s local authorities will have voted on whether or not to hold a plebiscite, the wording of which they do not know and for which the heads of a Bill of the enabling legislation have not even been discussed.
The subject of that plebiscite is the establishment of the office of a “Democratically Elected Mayor (‘DEM’) for Dublin”. The manner in which this question is being put to the elected members of those four councils means that the critical link between deciding to hold a local referendum and the wording of that referendum is broken, an extraordinary situation.
That Minister Hogan and his advisers think that in a modern democracy this procedure is acceptable illustrates the extent to which, since the foundation of the State, successive national governments have deprived local government of any real decision-making powers.
I have been a public representative for 13 years, and a member of the Labour Party’s working group on local government reform, and know something of how this will play out. I was also a representative on the forum set up by the minister to examine this issue. I know from that experience what this minister is likely to do if given a blank cheque to draft the terms of the plebiscite himself – which is what voting Yes on Monday would give him.
One only has to look at his track record. There was virtually nothing about devolving central government powers to local government in the new Reform of Local Government Act. These powers are absolutely central if the role of a DEM is to mean anything. The plain fact is that this minister is not going to devolve those powers to a DEM.
I don’t buy the “suck it and see” approach. The consequence of this will be less local democracy not more, within those four local council areas, and a handicapped directly elected mayor for the metropolitan area. Proponents of a Yes vote on Monday are prepared to wait years or even decades for the evolution of those DEM powers, if such an office is created, but are nor prepared to wait until we get the legislative basis for the office right in the first place without damaging local democracy in the four existing councils in the interim.
If the people of Fingal re-elect me in May (that’s local democracy in action), I don’t intend to stop working when this minister leaves the stage for the EU (as seems likely) and I look forward to working with someone else who is serious about local government reform and giving councillors and voters real choices in a plebiscite.
CLLR CIARAN BYRNE,
Fingal County Council,