News Politics

Saturday 23 August 2014

Plan for directly-elected mayor falls at the first hurdle with vote setback

John Downing, Alan O'Keeffe, Eimear Cotter and Joyce Fegan

Published 01/04/2014 | 02:30

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Dublin Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn
Dublin Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn

PLANS for a directly-elected mayor of Dublin city and county have fallen at the first hurdle.

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A proposed vote of Dublin citizens on May 23 next, the same day as council and European elections, now looks certain to be scrapped.

And there are now serious doubts about the plan for a directly-elected mayor ever happening at all.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan had fixed very tight ground rules for the proposal going ahead to the next hurdle. He said all four Dublin councils must approve the idea by a majority of their membership – not just those who turned up and voted on the day.

Dublin City Council already heavily endorsed the idea last week, with the three other Dublin councils voting yesterday.

But Fingal County Council voted against the proposal – effectively putting the kibosh on it, despite support from the others.

Last night, Dublin Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn said in spite of the setback, the vote on May 23 should go ahead. He pointed out that the other councils had strongly backed the idea and that even in rejecting the proposal, Fingal councillors had spoken of their good will towards allowing the plebiscite as planned in seven weeks.

But government sources said it was now most unlikely that the vote could proceed.

For advocates of a strong Dublin champion, the outcome is a serious reverse. They had argued that the great European and US cities had taken great strides in social and economic development under strong leadership of a single directly elected mayor.

The leadership offered by 'Red' Ken Livingstone and later Tory Boris Johnson for London over the past two decades had been cited as an example.

But last night there was a downbeat view privately being voiced by advocates of a directly-elected mayor of Dublin.

They acknowledged that even if the plan was re-cast it was likely to be far less powerful than originally planned.

Mr Quinn, who has championed the single mayor concept, refused to give up the fight and declared the Government should press ahead with a plebiscite despite Fingal's rejection.

OUTDATED

"It is wrong to allow a small number of councillors principally on Fingal County Council to frustrate the democratic process largely out of an outdated desire to protect a perceived separate identity," he said.

"With the clear majority of councillors across Dublin supporting the holding of a plebiscite, I believe the Government should now proceed to hold the vote," he said.

The Local Government Act 2014 stipulated all four councils must approve a move for a directly elected mayor with strong executive powers over transport, planning, waste disposal and other areas.

Fingal councillors voted against the proposal to put the idea to the electorate yesterday by a majority of 16 against, six in favour, and two abstentions.

Councillors, however, agreed a separate motion supporting the right of the people of Dublin city – not county – to decide whether or not they should have a directly elected mayor to reside over the city of Dublin.

They also called on the Environment Minister to amend the legislation to allow for a referendum at a later date, saying there had been insufficient time and debate on the proposal.

There had been a resounding 50-0 vote in favour by Dublin City councillors earlier this month.

Councillor Denis O'Callaghan said that Fingal County Council's decision was "an opportunity lost".

The strongest criticism came from Labour councillor Jane Dillon Byrne.

"Fingal is being anti- democratic and I feel this is enormously disappointing," she said.

Irish Independent

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