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D-day for councils as vote for mayor hangs in balance

A CRUCIAL vote on whether Dubliners will be allowed to have a directly-elected mayor will go down to the wire today.

Three county councils will vote on whether there should be a plebiscite – or poll – on the issue during the local and European elections on May 23.

South Dublin County Council and Dun-Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council are believed to support the proposals, as does Dublin City Council, which voted 50 in favour with only one abstention.

But it is a very different scenario in Fingal County Council, where the decision rests on a knife-edge due to what councillors claim are significant concerns about the resolution.

BLESSING

Today is decision day on whether the proposal scrapes through or falls flat at a local authority meeting. Without Fingal's blessing, the plebiscite will not go ahead, because it has to be passed by a majority of councillors in each of the four local Dublin authorities.

This means that 13 is the magic number of votes needed at the Fingal meeting today for it to proceed to the general public.

However, with at least seven councillors declaring themselves "undecided" and other councillors who have yet to show their hand, every vote could prove crucial.

The Herald called all Fingal councillors to see which way they would vote today.

Seven said that they would be voting in favour, six were voting against, seven were undecided and four could not be reached for comment.

"I'll be voting against it. I don't see it as a good thing for Fingal," Labour's Ken Farrell told the Herald.

"This is only going to be another layer of bureaucracy and we have enough of that in this country. I was a councillor when it was Dublin city and county and Dublin city got selective treatment over the rest of the county," he said.

Fine Gael's Kieran Dennison said he would not be voting to have a plebiscite on this proposal.

"I think they should have a properly considered proposal if they're going to put a plebiscite to the people and ask them to vote on it, and a costed proposal. Without costings, it's quite clear it's just another layer of local government going in on top of the current system," he said.

Independent councillor Anne Devitt also said she would vote no on the proposal.

"Personally I think that Fingal will not be served well by a directly elected mayor," she said.

She believed this because "the mayor would end up being a mayor for Dublin city".

Effectively, the proposal is for an elected mayor with strong executive powers. The directly-elected mayor would appoint a cabinet of directors in control of important areas such as transport, waste and planning.

But the mayor would be answerable to a Dublin assembly made up of councillors appointed by each of the local authorities.

If the plan is passed by all four local authorities and then by a majority of Dubliners, the Government would have two years to draw up legislation for the city's First Citizen.

Dublin Chamber of Commerce urged Fingal councillors "not to deny Dubliners the opportunity to vote on whether they want a directly elected mayor".

SUBSTANCE

Gina Quinn, CEO of the Dublin Chamber, said that blocking a plebiscite will mean that Dubliners will not get such a chance again for many years.

"While the exact structure of the mayor's office needs to be refined, vetoing the plebiscite at this stage would end Dublin's chances of having a major of substance for decades," she said.

"Even if the people of Dublin were to vote in favour of a directly elected mayor, the position would not come into effect until 2019 which leaves an adequate amount of time to come up with a structure that would please and benefit everyone."

HNEWS@HERALD.IE


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