Sunday 17 December 2017

Cowen faces revolt on backbenches over Greens' mayor plan

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen is facing a revolt from his own TDs and councillors over the controversial Green Party plan for an elected mayor of Dublin.

The legislation establishing the position will be published this week -- but Fianna Fail TDs and councillors in Dublin are rubbishing it as another bureaucratic layer and a waste of money.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, previously linked to the job, launched a scathing attack on the position, describing it as a "non-job".

Others in Fianna Fail called it a "waste of time", "mad" and a "vanity project".

The backbench unrest emerged as the Government's majority fell to its slimmest margin yet.

Senior cabinet members will tomorrow try to face down the dissenting backbenchers at a special meeting in Leinster House.

The mayor is a key part of the Green Party's agenda and is expected to be passed in the Dail by the end of the year -- but it is the latest Green policy to anger the Fianna Fail backbenches.

It follows on from the stag-hunting and dog-breeding legislation passed before the summer.

A survey by the Irish Independent of Dublin-based backbench Fianna Fail TDs and councillors on whether they supported the mayor proposal revealed a mix between apathy and outright opposition.

Transport Minister Noel Dempsey and Community Minister Pat Carey will brief FF TDs and councillors on the legislation in Leinster House tomorrow night, in a bid to win over hearts and minds.

But of 11 backbenchers surveyed, none said they were entirely happy with the position of the mayor as proposed.

Seven did not like the idea or said it needed substantially more work, while two were favourable but wanted more detail. The other two did not return calls.

Taxpayers

Former junior minister Noel Ahern called it a "bit of a waste of space" and questioned whether taxpayers could afford it at the moment.

Dublin Central's Cyprian Brady said he was "concerned" about the costs involved, and Dublin South's Tom Kitt said he was not "overly enthusiastic" about it.

Dublin South-East TD Chris Andrews said there is "no appetite for the position".

"For us to create another position, the way things are at the moment, would just be seen as politicians looking after each other and feathering each other's nests," he said.

Green sources last night dismissed the FF attitudes, saying the legislation is in the Programme for Government and that it will be passed.

"The reason they don't want it is because they know they'll lose the election and a Blueshirt will get the job," one Green source said.

The Greens maintain the mayor will make local government in the capital more efficient and transparent and will not cost more money.

A spokesman for Environment Minister John Gormley said: "The Dublin mayor has been agreed twice by the government partners, in the June 2007 Programme for Government and in October 2009.

"We're confident it will be implemented."

Irish Independent

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