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Mansion House, Dublin. Shutterstock/faithie
CASUAL VACANCY

Dublin needs a new Lord Mayor and Councils need 34 new representatives after General Election

When a sitting Councillor is elected to Dáil Eireann what’s known as a “casual vacancy” arises.

LAST UPDATE | 16 Feb 2020

FOLLOWING THE ELECTION of Fianna Fáil Councillor Paul McAuliffe to Dáil Éireann the Mansion House is vacant and Dublin needs a new Lord Mayor. 

McAuliffe, who has been Lord Mayor since June 2019 and who moved out of Dawson Street on Friday, told TheJournal.ie that Deputy Lord Mayor Tom Brabazon will don the gold chain until March, when a new Lord Mayor – another Fianna Fáiler – will be chosen. 

That Councillor – possibly Brabazon, possibly another FF representative – will also occupy the Mansion House for only a truncated period, until June. 

Lord Mayors in Dublin are elected through an agreement between Council parties. Each party takes a turn. This summer it’s the Green Party’s turn next time around to put forward one of their councillors to become Dublin’s first citizen. 

Meanwhile, nine Fianna Fáil councillors sit on Dublin City Council. One of them will take over until the annual meeting to elect a new Lord Mayor for the next 12 months takes place. 

In total, there were 34 Councillors around Ireland elected as TDs following the General Election.

They’ll all have to be replaced on local authorities, too. 

When a sitting councillor is elected to Dáil Eireann what’s known as a “casual vacancy” arises. 

This vacancy must then be filled by someone from the same political party, generally a person active within the party’s local area. 

Each party has now kicked off a nomination process to decide who will be co-opted onto various councils. 

The rules – which have been in place since 1898 – were amended under The Local Government Act 2001 specifying the party political clause. 

If an independent councillor is elected to the Dáil their seat is filled by a person nominated by that councillor. 

Independent Councillor Christy Burke – who narrowly lost out on a seat in Dublin Central in the General Election – said had he won a seat a family member would most likely have taken his seat on Dublin City Council. 

And what if a Councillor dies while in office?

Well, political parties will put someone forward to fill the seat, as per the co-opting process. 

According to McAuliffe, if an independent councillor dies, they’re entitled to leave their council seat to a nominated person in their will before their demise. 

It may seem undemocratic, people who weren’t electing taking up roles as Councillors. 

Yet the argument goes that, firstly, the council seat was won by the party and therefore belongs to the party.

Secondly, the administrative burden associated with holding 34 council by-elections would be considerable, said Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey, who was co-opted onto Dublin City Council in 1993. 

“The problem is if you have a [by-election] you alter the balance. People in an area may choose to elect two Fianna Fáil, two Fine Gael and one Labour Councillor.

But Fianna Fáil might say be the biggest party so in a by-election they win but that alters that delicate balance people chose at the time of [Local Elections]. That’s the argument for co-opting.

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