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Dublin: 1 °C Monday 19 March, 2018

Two more councils back mayor proposal, but Fingal’s ‘nay’ scuppers plan

Any of the four local authorities in the county had the power to veto the proposal to put the plan to the people of the county on 23 May.

Updated at 11.23pm

FINGAL COUNTY COUNCIL has voted against proposals to hold a Dublin-wide vote on a directly-elected mayor for the city. It had been proposed a plebiscite be put to the people on 23 May.

The veto from the north Dublin authority means that’s now not set to go ahead — in spite of three other councils backing the move.

Dublin South voted in favour of a wider referendum earlier this afternoon, while last Monday Dublin City Council voted overwhelmingly in favour.

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown also voted tonight, giving the plan a resounding ‘yes’ even though the proposal was already dead in the water following this afternoon’s developments.

The margin in Fingal was 16 against, 6 for and 2 abstentions (all 24 councillors were present for the vote).

In Dublin South, it was 19 in favour, three against, one abstention and three absent.

And in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown the final tally was 23 in favour, zero against.


Heading into this afternoon’s meeting, signals had suggested the vote would be close — with the expectation the authority would only narrowly vote the proposal down.

From early in the session, however, a consensus became clear — with councillors from across the party divide arguing that there wasn’t enough detail on the plan being proposed and that 23 May was too soon for a public vote on the issue.

Some councillors argued that the north Dublin region would be left at a disadvantage should the plan for a directly-elected mayor be allowed to progress.

The meeting began at 3.30pm, with Fine Gael’s Mayor of Fingal Kieran Dennison — who has been one of the main opponents of the move — opening the debate.

Ruth Coppinger of the Socialist Party was one of the many members to argue that the proposal for the plebiscite was being rushed through, and that to date there had not been enough public debate.


Ciarán Byrne of Labour said that while quotes attributed to him in the media appeared to suggest he was against a plebiscite, he was in fact simpy “against this structure for a plebiscite”.

“I am not in favour of this rushed proposal to fit it in with the local elections on May 23,” Byrne said.

For Fianna Fáil, Councillor Dara Butler said that while he was not against having a directly elected mayor, there were “too many unknowns”.

“As things stand I don’t think a yes vote is in favour of residents of Dublin,” Butler said.

We need to have proper debate on this [...] There’s not enough flesh on the bones. We really are giving Minister Hogan a blank cheque if we vote yes on this today.

‘Total lack of detail’

Butler’s Fianna Fáil colleague Eoghan O’Brien agreed there was “a total lack of detail” on the current proposals.

We’ve no detail on what a Minister for Environment would put before the people, if we were to pass this and if it were to be put to the people on 23 May.

I can’t vote yes to an issue where we don’t have any detail as to what the long-term impact would be.

The Socialist Party’s Matt Waine described the plan for an ‘executive mayor’ as “a legacy issue from the previous government”

He said a yes vote from the council would effectively amount to giving ‘carte blanche’ to a future environment minister:

It’s like being asked to buy a second-hand car from a second-hand car salesman without being given a look at the car or at the log book until it’s too late.

‘No demand’

From Fine Gael, Tom O’Leary raised similar concerns to those of the earlier speakers, adding that there was no demand in the area for a vote on a directly-elected mayor. He said he had had 35 emails on the subject. In contrast, he had 365 on the issue of a taxi rank in Skerries.

As the debate continued, the consensus on the issue became more and more apparent — with several councillors saying their concerns had already been addressed by previous speakers

Ken Farrell of Labour said he was certain Fingal residents would be treated as “second -class citizens” if the plan went ahead.

Those for…

Cian O’Callaghan — a former Labour mayor of the authority, now an independent — spoke in favour of both the 23 May plebiscite and the current proposals for a directly-elected mayor.

He said a mayor with real powers could provide all areas of the city with advantages, particularly in the area of housing — where he said Dublin had been let down by central government.

O’Callaghan said Fingal had most to benefit from an overhaul of the system “because we’re the region with most potential for further development”.

As the debate entered its final stages, John Walsh of Labour said he believed the plan had been “set up to fail”.

Walsh said he believed Environment Minister Phil Hogan would be “celebrating with flutes of champagne, at the back of the Custom House” if the plan for a directly-elected mayor stalled “because we’ve let him off the hook”.


There was a short recess before a vote was taken and the motion for the 23 May plebiscite was defeated.

However, councillors voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion to allow people to vote on a stand-alone plebiscite at a later date — after “sufficient time and debate” had taken place on “clear proposals” for a directly-elected mayor.


[Screengrab/Fingal Co Co]

Councillors were told their recommendation would be passed on to Environment Minister Phil Hogan.

However, according to a statement from the Minister’s Department:

The effect of the Fingal vote is that there will not now be a plebiscite at the time of the local elections in May on a proposal for an office of directly elected mayor across the 4 Dublin authorities constituting the Dublin Metropolitan Area.

Minister Hogan concluded “any further consideration of proposals for a directly elected mayor must take place after the local elections”:

I gave the opportunity to the elected members to develop a proposal for a plebiscite.

They have not achieved a consensus, and further assessment of options must await the new councils to be elected in May.

According to Hogan:

The statutory requirement of a majority of the councillors in each of the four Dublin local authorities being required to support  the plebiscite was high, as it was necessary to ensure that there was genuine political consensus amongst the members on their view on the best governance arrangements for the office of directly elected mayor for Dublin.

Dun Laoghaire

Councillors in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown went ahead with their vote this evening — even though the ballot was a dead rubber.

Fine Gael councillor Barry Ward’s hashtag summed up their decision:



Lord Mayor of Dublin Oisín Quinn — a prominent supporter of the proposal — called on the Government to proceed with the plebiscite, in light of the fact that so many councillors are in favour of it across all the authorities.

With the clear majority of councillors across Dublin supporting the holding of a plebiscite, I believe the Government should now proceed to hold the vote and let Dubliners decide whether or not they want a directly elected mayor.

It is wrong to allow a small number of Councillors principally on Fingal County Council to frustrate the democratic process largely out of an outdated desire to protect a perceived separate identity.  Dublin and Fingal should not be in competition or seen to be in competition.  No single group should be given a veto on reform.

First posted at 4.30pm.

Column: Voting down a plebiscite for a directly-elected Dublin mayor would be bad for democracy

Read: Dublin City councillors in favour of having vote for directly-elected mayor

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