Mayor wants to be the link from the citizen to the council
The new Mayor of Fingal says he wants to act a link between citizens of the county and the council during his term.
Cllr Howard Mahony (FF), who was elected to the role unopposed, was co-opted to Fingal County Council in 2016 when his constituency colleague Jack Chambers, now a Junior Minister, won a Dáil seat. The community activist and retired Garda was encouraged to get involved in local politics by the late Brian Lenihan TD and had his first run as a candidate in the 2009 local elections.
Although unsuccessful on that occasion, he believes the experience served him well and says he learned a lot from talking to people on the doorsteps.
Prior to running, he had retired from the force after a distinguished 31-year career that saw him work in the Special Detective Unit at Harcourt Square. Cllr Mahony is married with one adult daughter, a midwife, is originally from Kilrush, Co Clare, but has lived in Dublin 15 since the early 1980s.
Cllr Mahony, who retained his seat in the 2019 local elections, said while the power of councillors is restricted, you still get to represent your community and deliver for them.
Housing will continue to be a priority for him during his term.
“I’m a huge advocate for social and affordable housing – I believe it’s the only way forward,” he said. “I’m a big supporter of the Housing For All plan, which I feel has a good mix and balance.”
He claims while people often blame the planning process for delays in the delivery of housing, he thinks the problem lies elsewhere.
“One of the main issues is tendering and trying to find contractors to build the homes,” he said. “This often gets lost in the political debate.”
Party allegiances aside, he feels Minister Darragh O’Brien has been an effective Minister for Housing.
“He has been criticised a lot but there’s no Housing Minister who hasn’t been,” he said.
“I think previous ministers made huge mistakes. The Strategic Housing Development mechanism was wrong and I am delighted to see it gone. Proper consultation is essential and SHDs took democracy out of the process. I won’t be over critical of the previous minister as the SHD system was introduced in good faith to expedite housing delivery, but it didn’t work. Once proper consultation was taken away, certain developers looked for much higher densities than they would have through the normal planning process.”
Cllr Mahony welcomes the replacement of SHDs with the Large-Scale Residential Development (LRD) process, which will see planning decisions made by local authorities, with a right to appeal to An Bord Pleanála.
“When a decision is made at council level, there are more people from different departments involved,” he said.
He described Fingal County Council as one of the best local authorities in the country for the provision of homes, citing the affordable and social housing scheme at Dun Emer, Lusk – as well as councillors’ support for the “fabulous” Ballymastone project – as just two examples.
Cllr Mahony is also passionate about the need to provide additional services and facilities for children and adults with special needs.
“We’ve a huge shortage of special schools in Dublin,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are children who can’t go to mainstream schools, even the ones that have special classes.”
He feels people living in Fingal get high levels of service from the council.
“We may be one of the wealthier local authorities in the country, but there is a real sense of the council putting money back into communities,” he told Fingal Independent.
He’s a strong believer in Fingal’s considerable potential as a tourism destination and said he was delighted to see work start on the Swords Cultural Quarter, as well as the renewal of Balbriggan town.
“I know Fingal County Council will replicate these projects in other parts of the county as they are very forward-thinking,” he added. “When people drive out of Dublin Airport, I don’t want to see them turning right – I want them to turn left and travel to the north or west of the county. We have a very saleable commodity, including a long stretch of coastline, and it was great to see Rush beach recently awarded a Blue Flag.”
Asked what he would like to be remembered for after his term ends, he replied: “Legacies make themselves. If I can do as good a job as any of my predecessors since I jointed the council – who have all been excellent Fingal Mayors – I will be happy.
“I want to bring Fingal to the people and be a link between the citizens and the council. It may be a cliché, but it really is a huge honour to be elected Mayor of Fingal as you are the first citizen.”