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Heads of Dublin's local authorities express support for directly elected mayor

The mayors of the four local authorities in Dublin spoke at a panel discussion at the Dublin Citizens’ Assembly on a directly elected mayor.

Image: Citizens' Assembly

THE MAYORS OF Dublin’s four local authorities have said they would support the introduction of a directly elected mayor.

Alison Gilliland, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Lettie McCarthy, the Cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Seána Ó Rodaigh, the Mayor of Fingal, and Peter Kavanagh, the Mayor of South Dublin County Council, unanimously expressed their support for the work of the Dublin Citizens’ Assembly in making recommendations to the Houses of the Oireachtas on how the office of a directly elected mayor would function.

The four mayors were speaking at a panel discussion at the second meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly, which saw discussion of the role and functions of current mayors in Dublin and the international experience of having a directly elected mayor.

Over the next eight months, the Assembly will examine the potential benefits, challenges, and opportunities associated with a directly elected Mayor for Dublin.

Today’s meeting also included virtual presentations and a panel discussion with representatives from other international cities where a directly elected mayor is in place.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, told the Assembly that his role allows him to be an influential advocate for regional development. He said there were improvements to public policy which arose from having a directly elected mayor.

Referencing the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, Burnham said it was a “prime example of how an overcentralised political system completely ignores the voice of a city crying for justice”.

“When you’re starting at the city level, its a place-first approach, not a party-first approach. It just makes politics work differently.”

Five years on since he took up his role in Greater Manchester, Burnham said the system is “superior to London”, and he likes to believe that the voice of the north of England is “getting louder and stronger all the time”.

The Vice-Mayor of Paris, Anouche Toranian, spoke about the wide range of services that operate under the office of the Mayor of Paris and the extent of public engagement and input there is in the way the city functions and is governed.

She spoke about the complex way that Paris’s mayoral system works, and outlined the extent of public engagement in the way the city is governed.

“Since it is a capital city and it has a history called ‘a revolutionary city’, the mayor is not fully in charge of certain specific fields. Some competencies fall within the remit of the prefect of police,” she said, adding that traffic issues are a joint-competency of both the mayor and the prefect of police.

Former member of Boston City Council, Larry DiCara, said he encouraged wide discussions on the type of local government that works best for Dublin, adding that the lessons from Boston and Massachusetts are that different systems work best for different cities depending on their needs.

The Chair of the Dublin Assembly, Jim Gavin, said: “This weekend, members of the Assembly were provided with a significant level of insight into what role our current mayors play and how directly elected mayors operate in other similar cities.

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“We are deepening our understanding of the extent of the current centralisation of local government in Ireland. However, we are also seeing the potential scope of the office of a directly elected mayor and the extent of the powers that may be available to them to the benefit of the city and county of Dublin.”

The Assembly will continue to hold a series of meetings over the coming months and is due to conclude its work later this year before sending its recommendations to the Houses of the Oireachtas. It comprises 67 randomly selected citizens of Dublin city and county and 12 elected councillors nominated to participate.

Members of the public can make submissions to the Citizens’ Assembly on a Directly Elected Mayor for Dublin here.

A Citizens’ Assembly on biodiversity, chaired by Dr Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain, is also under way at the moment, with a Citizens’ Assembly on drugs scheduled to begin early next year.

– Additional reporting from PA

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