Monday 22 July 2019

Dublin to get first directly elected mayor by next year

Senan Molony Deputy Political Editor

DUBLIN is to get its first directly elected Mayor from next year.

The capital will get a first citizen with executive powers.

The Mansion House will have the ability to set congestion charges, as well as dealing with water, waste and further transport issues.

The election will give former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern an opportunity to consider a return to high-profile public representation.

It could also attract the attention of senior and provocative figures such as Ruairi Quinn, Joe Higgins and Liz O'Donnell -- and whoever loses out among Dublin's four MEPs -- now that the capital's number of Euro seats is being reduced to just three.

Directly-elected mayors for other major cities -- such as Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick -- will follow in years to come, depending on the success of the Dublin initiative.

Environment Minister John Gormley made the announcement yesterday at Leinster House.

The election, for an initial four-year term, comes a year early -- having previously been pencilled in for 2011.

Salary

Thereafter it will keep pace with the local and European elections and be for a five-year term.

Mr Gormley said it was envisaged the mayor would have the salary of a Cabinet minister and his own staff.

Bertie Ahern, who mused about the high-powered post at a book launch recently, could have his candidacy affected by the publication of the Mahon tribunal report, now expected at the end of this year.

But Mr Gormley said he envisaged that anyone could put their names forward for election.

At present, only city councillors can elect a figurehead mayor, with Eibhlin Byrne (FF) the current occupant.

"I am making the most significant change to leadership in Dublin since the foundation of the State," Mr Gormley said.

A highly-visible and accountable mayor would have the authority and powers to deliver real leadership for the city and region, he said.

"The mayor's leadership will derive from a suite of substantial powers across the functions of local government."

The mayor will have responsibility for land-use planning, waste management, water services, and housing across the four major Dublin local authorities and the mayor will also be chair of the Dublin Transport Authority.

Mr Gormley said mayors for other cities would come in time and would have regard to regional 'hub' importance.

He cited Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway.

Ironically, while the commitment to a Dublin mayor with executive powers appears in the Programme for Government -- having been insisted upon by the Greens -- Mr Gormley's party could find it hard to field a candidate.

The junior Coalition party is contesting only half the Euro election constituencies, and has a Wicklow woman standing in Dublin, Deirdre de Burca.

The party in the capital also faces a renegade campaign by former Dublin Green MEP Patricia McKenna.

Former Lord Mayor of Dublin Dermot Lacey (Labour), who campaigned for a new turbo-charged Mansion House for over six years, last night challenged Bertie Ahern to debate Dublin issues. He said there had recently been a statement of support for a directly-elected mayor by the former Taoiseach Bertie, which was "a new and surprising development".

Responsibility

He added: "It begs the question why Bertie did not do this when he could have done it.

"Why did he allow Noel Dempsey to provide for it in the Local Government Act of 2000 only to allow the more craven Martin Cullen reverse the legislation," he asked.

Mr Gormley denied the move was simply a way to avoid political responsibility for expected congestion charges in the capital.

"I further believe this exciting new beginning for Dublin offers a model which can inspire radical change in other regions of the state. This is an issue the Government will be turning to later in the year."

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News