Wednesday 13 November 2019

Voters 'must get say on new mayoral position'

Fionnan Sheahan, Group Political Editor

The Lord Mayor of Dublin says it will be "ridiculous" if voters in the capital are not given their say on plans for a directly elected mayor because of the objections of a handful of councillors.

Labour Party councillor Oisin Quinn, inset, says the opposition of one of the four councils in Dublin to a referendum on the issue cannot be allowed to prevent a vote.

"Why would you be opposed to Dubliners having their say? The public will think it is ridiculous," he said.

Plans for the new mayor's office are in danger of falling at the first hurdle due to the opposition of Fingal County Council.

Councillors in Dublin have to decide by the end of the month whether a referendum on the introduction of the new position will take place on the same day as the local elections. But all four councils have to agree to the vote for it to take place on May 23.

The referendum is intended to give Dubliners a say on whether the post will be created in principle.

Fingal is threatening to veto the plan by objecting to the referendum being held in the first place because councillors there do not agree with the plan.

Councillors are concerned about Fingal's income stream and are also objecting to the structure of the new post, arguing that there are no efficiencies contained in the plans.


Dublin City Council, South Dublin County Council and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council have signalled they are in favour of the referendum taking place.

Mr Quinn said it was hard to see how councillors who engaged in the democratic process would oppose the referendum.

"The question really for councillors is do you think Dubliners should have their say? It's hard to see why someone in Fingal should be against that," he said.

Mr Quinn said Fingal's objections will only add to the pressure to hold the referendum.

"If it turns out one council blocks it, I actually think there will be pressure on the Government to continue and organise the plebiscite," he said.

The Green Party is blaming the "anti-democratic instincts" in Fine Gael for the potential collapse of the mayor proposals.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan pointed to Fine Gael councillor Kieran Dennison, the Fingal mayor, leading the opposition to the referendum.

"The silence from Phil Hogan and other Fine Gael ministers, as well as other Dublin politicians, is deafening. Not one of them is wiling to stand up against what their Fingal councillor is saying. They are going back on their own stated policy, and they are doing so in a way which is an insult to the democratic principles they say they uphold."

Mr Dennison said councillors in Fingal were opposed to the proposals for the directly-elected role as currently set out.

"The overwhelming view is the proposed structure is half-baked. There is absolutely no efficiencies in this," he said.

"I am for the principle of a directly elected mayor, based on the US model of a chief executive in charge."

Mr Dennison said rates in Fingal were far lower than Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown.

"The feeling was we had to protect our rates base, with knock on consequences for property tax," he said.

Irish Independent

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