Sir, – Chris Oonan is quite right to point out that a directly elected mayor for Dublin would not be a panacea for the city’s ills (“Dublin’s problems will not be solved by an elected mayor”, Opinion & Analysis, December 29th).
He is also quite right to point out the lack of power and funding that Irish local authorities hold, which makes Irish local government among the weakest in Europe (more so even than the relatively weak and cash-strapped English councils he examines).
However, in pointing out the limited role of the mayor of London, he overlooks one of the advantages of the office. When Margaret Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council in 1986, she abolished the most effective means of co-ordinating much of the work of London’s 32 borough councils. The most important role of the current mayor is not fixing problems directly but directing local policy across borough councils to serve strategic aims for Greater London. For example, the mayor has powers to set housing targets for each borough, so a reluctant suburban council can be arm-twisted into helping meet the needs of its inner-city neighbours.
If Dublin is to gain a directly elected mayor, the main point of this should be to provide political leadership and strategic co-ordination across the existing four counties.
The structure and powers (and yes, funding) of a new mayor’s office and whatever organisation stand behind them are far more important than just giving world leaders a single face of Dublin to talk to. – Yours, etc,