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Bernard Allen
Bernard Allen
SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

Bernard Allen: 'We need a directly elected Lord Mayor to give power back to the people'

FORMER Lord Mayor Bernard Allen said the fact that local authority chief executives do not like Fine Gael's proposal for directly elected mayors is a good reason to vote for it next week.

The former Minister and veteran Dáil and City Hall politician said that the executives of local authorities have pulled power away from the elected councillors in recent decades and that direct elections would swing it back.

Mr Allen, a long-time Fine Gael TD and councillor, served as Lord Mayor from 1988 to 1989.

Referring to comments made by council officials questioning the costs of the proposed office, Mr Allen said that they did not want to see it pass.

"The reason these things are being said is because they would lose all the powers they have gained over the last 20 years.

"That's why I am wholehearted in my support of it. We would be giving power back to the people," he said.

Local Government Minister John Paul Phelan, who also addressed the press conference along with Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Senators Jerry Buttimer and Colm Burke, confirmed that the government would fund the increased costs of a directly-elected mayor through the under-utilised Local Government Reform Fund which has not been fully spent in recent years.

Mr Allen said a directly-elected Lord Mayor would also help people access the services they need more easily.

"As a citizen now, out of politics, I feel that there is a major gulf between the public and City Hall "The directly-elected mayor will be the bridge between the public and the services," he said.

The Tánaiste said that it was "frustrating" that people have been distracted by the proposed salary of €130,000, linked to that of a Junior Minister, but defended it as the cost of making the proposal work.

"This person will have huge responsibility. This will be a really demanding job. 12 hour days I suspect, with a lot of responsibility, and it's going to take a lot of political skill to become Lord Mayor.

"If we want to attract people from all walks of life - from business, from sport, from the voluntary sector and so on - it's probably someone who is going to have to give up a very good job to do it.

"Is someone seriously suggesting that we ask someone to do this job on a voluntary basis? I just don't think that's realistic," he said.