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

All four local authorities in the country have to agree on whether to put the issue to the people on the same day as the local and European elections.

Oisín Quinn

LATER TODAY, COUNCILLORS from three of Dublin’s local authorities will make a decision on whether the people of Dublin can vote on a proposal for a directly elected mayor for the city region.

This proposal was prepared by a forum of 22 councillors which I convened last year from the four Dublin local authorities.

After extensive public consultation we drew up a proposal that provides for a strong executive mayor with power to make decisions on areas such as transport, tourism and economic development for the Dublin region.

Executive mayor

The mayor can bring in people from outside politics to run departments like housing and transport.  There are significant checks and balances.

For example, the mayor’s appointees must be vetted in public and approved by the councillors of the proposed Dublin regional assembly. This assembly can also impeach the mayor.

If councillors decide to allow the plebiscite to take place, we will have the opportunity to engage in a major public debate about whether giving Dublin a strong, directly-elected mayor can take the City forward.

May vote

The plebiscite can be easily facilitated in conjunction with the European and local elections in May. If Dubliners vote in favour, it will be up to the Government to introduce the necessary legislation.

Last week, in an a rare show of unanimity, my colleagues on Dublin City Council voted overwhelmingly to endorse the right of Dublin’s citizens to express their view on the idea of a directly elected mayor.

The remaining three local authorities in Dublin – Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, South Dublin and Fingal – now hold the power to veto this opportunity to give a voice to the people.

While it seems likely that councillors in Dun Laoghaire and South County Dublin will vote yes, it is possible that a small number in Fingal will vote against giving a say to the people of Dublin.  That would be bad for democracy.  It would also inhibit our city reaching its full potential, from an economic and social point of view.

Future direction for Dublin city

This proposal offers Dubliners the chance to become centrally involved in the future direction of the city.  It can create much more transparency and accountability about decisions which are currently made by a multiplicity of faceless national and statutory bodies.

It can give Dublin a strong voice in attracting business, driving innovation and promoting our talent.  It can give Ireland a strong city to compete with our European competitors like Copenhagen, Barcelona and Edinburgh.

While there are concerns that some officials and ministers are against the proposal, I believe a robust public debate and the potential for a strong vote by Dubliners this May will create the momentum for this change.

As the hours tick away and voting begins, I would urge my colleagues to put aside their fears and look at the opportunities a directly elected mayor can deliver for our City.

The 21st century will be about cities. Let’s make sure Dublin is playing in the Champions League.

Oisín Quinn is the current Lord Mayor. He was elected on Monday 24th June 2013 and is the 344th Lord Mayor of Dublin.

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Oisín Quinn

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