Wednesday 22 November 2017

Ahern hints at run for mayor if post wields genuine power

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern yesterday indicated that he may run for Mayor of Dublin, if the position is given strong executive control of the city -- including the power to raise taxes.

Environment Minister John Gormley has said that he hopes to hold the first poll for a directly elected mayor of the city and county in June.

It is still unclear what kind of powers the mayor would have but legislation on the position is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.

Mr Ahern has long been linked to the post, which will cover all the local authority areas in the capital -- Fingal, South Dublin, Dun Laoghaire and Dublin City.

He apparently ruled himself out yesterday, before leaving the door open.

When asked, he initially said he would not run and said the position, which is expected to come with a salary of more than €200,000, didn't attract him.

However, he added: "If I saw a mayor with full, full executive powers, which I don't think from what I'm hearing I'm going to see, then you'd think about it."

Mr Ahern said that the proposed Mayor of Dublin needed the power to raise taxes.

"If you continue with the system where the mayor has to go down to the department to get the money, there's no point in having the mayor.

"I was a mayor 24 years ago, with a chain around my neck and I'd no powers. I don't need to do that again," he said, referring to his time as Lord Mayor of Dublin City.


Mr Ahern -- who will likely be called before the banking inquiry -- yesterday declined to volunteer to give his evidence in public.

The inquiry will do most of its business behind closed doors and will be set up as a commission of investigation.

Under the laws that allow for a commission to be established, witnesses can volunteer to give their evidence in public.

Mr Ahern said yesterday he would appear before the inquiry if he was called and said he had nothing to fear from it.

He said yesterday he would do "whatever I have to do" and he had "no problem giving evidence in public inquiries, as you know. I am a taskmaster at that," he joked -- presumably, in classic Bertie style, he meant to say master.

"We all know what happened. The banks borrowed money on the open market in the short term. As soon as Lehmans' went, they had to pay that money up and they hadn't got it to pay."

Mr Ahern, who was launching the Holiday World show in Dublin, also said that a generation of developers, who may be needed in future, could be lost.

"The issue is this -- maybe they did this, maybe they did that, maybe they did the other, but they also employed 200,000 people and everyone was doing well in that.

"Sooner rather than later, we will need a group to take that on again and a lot of people ... will not be in that position again, or won't want to."

He also defended tax breaks for developers, after figures yesterday revealed that they cost the taxman €800m.

Mr Ahern said infrastructure was "disastrous" before they were brought in. He gave the quays in Dublin as an example of an area that had benefited from the breaks.

Irish Independent

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