DUBLIN and Limerick will have mayors directly elected by the electorate, with real decision-making powers, within three years.
As part of a major reform of local authorities, the Government yesterday announced that Limerick city and county councils would be merged into a single local authority in 2014, with the election of a mayor to follow after the local elections that year.
And Environment Minister Phil Hogan said other local authorities may also be merged and that directly elected mayors could follow for other cities.
Dublin and Limerick will be the first to have mayors elected for a five-year term, he said.
Mr Hogan had criticised the previous government's plans for a directly elected mayor for Dublin, claiming they would not have the power to make decisions, and said yesterday that details of salary and executive powers would be announced in the autumn.
The new mayors are expected to have authority to make decisions on housing, planning, transport, water and waste issues. The post of a ceremonial mayor, elected by councillors for one year, is likely to be abolished.
The move comes after the Local Government Efficiency Review Group recommended last July that merging 20 local authorities into ten 'joint administrative areas' would help streamline services and help cut costs.
A separate report from the Limerick Local Government Committee, published last September, said that merging the two authorities would be the best way to ensure proper city and county planning. The move will save €15m a year.
The new authority, which is still unnamed, will serve a population of 185,000 people.
"We are implementing the core elements of the committee's recommendations," Mr Hogan said.