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Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern warns directly elected mayor for Dublin would be a ‘dog’s dinner’

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Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern with Dublin Citizen's Assembly chairman Jim Gavin. Photo: Maxwells

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern with Dublin Citizen's Assembly chairman Jim Gavin. Photo: Maxwells

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern with Dublin Citizen's Assembly chairman Jim Gavin. Photo: Maxwells

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said having a directly elected mayor for Dublin would be a “dog’s dinner” and said instead the council should be made stronger.

Mr Ahern addressed the third meeting of the Dublin Citizens’ Assembly in Malahide, Co Dublin, today, which has been tasked with considering the issue of a directly elected mayor.

The former Fianna Fáil leader told delegates that the international experiences of directly elected mayors has been examined to see if they are effective.

“We looked at the grand old systems from around the world where they have directly elected mayors that are in control of everything, in control of the police, control of teaching, control of all of the vicinities, which would be operated in the city and that’s just so far removed from the system we have,” he said.

“I cannot see us having a department and a mayor’s office with advisors and staff and that’s what would happen.”

He explained that the system for Dublin would have an affect on the government overall, and lead to friction.

“The mayor would come in and not alone would you get the involved power from departments and agencies, but then you would have friction between the Custom House and the ministry, between the agencies and the ministry, between the Taoiseach’s office and the city council, and then you would have the mayor with a whole load of advisors and in my personal views I think it’s a dog’s dinner.”

Mr Ahern’s solution is to build stronger councils as opposed to having a directly elected mayor in a temporary position.

“How can we make the system better? I think instead of focusing on the directly elected mayor, if our councils were stronger, if our councillors were giving more powers, if the councillors have more resources, there are within the councils an appetite maybe for a federal system in Dublin where we could try to power the councils through a federal system to actually evolve over time to a system that would be a far better system than we currently have.

“Having a figure head who has to be elected every few years who will always be looking at short-sited issues, the problem with democratic politics is you’re always looking to the next election, and I am not too sure if that would help us.”

He said when he started in politics, Dublin had a population of just under three million and, by the end of this decade, its population could reach six million.

“The country has developed rapidly, when I was minster for labour, we have 950,000 people working and now we have two and a half million and that’s going to continue to grow, so we are a far more sophisticated, complicated county and I think to say that the system we have should presently stay, no it shouldn’t.

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“We have a far bigger population, but I don’t think directly a mayor on its own is going to do it. I think it has to be done by trying to develop the city and the county into a federal system and have a far stronger council where we have maybe far more officials and a far more technical side working for Dublin County, I think that’s the road to go.”

The assembly also heard from Tim O’Connor, chairman of the advisory group for a Directly Elected Mayor of Limerick.

In 2019, Limerick voted to make their mayor a directly elected position, rather than allowing local councillors to vote a person into office.

It is planned that Limerick’s election for a directly elected mayor will take place alongside local elections, which will happen in 2024.

To allow the mayor to have a full five-year term, they will stay in office until the following local elections in 2029.

Cork and Waterford voted against a directly elected mayor in 2019, the same year that Limerick voted in favour of the change.

Dublin was not included in the plebiscites at the time, instead a citizens’ assembly had to be held before voting commenced, in order to discuss the added complexities of the role for Dublin County.


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