Coveney warns that Limerick could overtake Cork if mayoral vote fails

Coveney warns that Limerick could overtake Cork if mayoral vote fails
Tánaiste Simon Coveney

LIMERICK could surge ahead of Cork if people reject tomorrow's vote to establish a directly elected Lord Mayor, according to Tánaiste Simon Coveney.

In an eleventh-hour plea for a yes vote, the Fine Gael deputy leader and Minister for Foreign Affairs said that it's now up to voters to decide whether the political figure with the largest democratic mandate outside of the President comes from Cork or Limerick. 

Voters will decide on Government proposal to establish a new, directly elected Lord Mayor with increased executive powers.

Mr Coveney expects Limerick to pass the plebiscite and create the office, and said that Cork will end up being envious if the vote fails here. 

"There is a danger that Cork will be left behind if they say no to this reform. I think we can do better than the status quo.

"You may find in a few years if Cork decides not to go with this you'll get a political figure emerging out of Limerick with the mandate of the people there, with the control of a very significant budget, and people in Cork will say 'that's the kind of person we want leading our city.'

"We'll have had the opportunity to do that, but we will have said no," he said. 

He said that a directly elected Lord Mayor would be more accountable to the public than the current City Hall chief executive, which would push them to improve service delivery on everything from footpaths to housing, and would make the planned growth in Cork easier too.

"For the first time ever, Cork has a second city strategy. We have a strategy over the next 15 to 20 years to make Cork a real counterbalance to Dublin and it's dominance.

"As part of that change, we want to create a very powerful new political office for the Lord Mayor, that the people would decide on, that they would elect their people's champion and then give them the power and resource to get things done for the city. 

"If you're unhappy with how certain things are working in Cork, here's your chance to actually elect a political champion with real power, with proper resources to get things done," he said.

He reiterated the government's commitment to pay for the office, without the need for Cork City Council to pull money from elsewhere in its budget.

Meanwhile, the Green Party's Oliver Moran also called for a Yes vote.

"The greatest challenge this campaign has had to overcome is a sense of ‘anti-politics.’ Decades of austerity politics. The abolition of town councils. The stripping of local government of its powers. People no longer having a sense of the potential of local government.

"And yet that’s exactly the reason I’m sticking in this fight. Because we’re pro-politics. And for the first time I can remember, we have a proposal to actually invest in local democracy. To give people power. To have accountability," he said. 

A former Lord Mayor of Cork City has hit out at the Tanaiste for ‘trying to frighten Cork voters’ to vote yes in the upcoming plebiscite on proposal for a directly elected mayor for Cork city.

Councillor Terry Shannon (FF) called on Simon Coveney to retract comments he made claiming Limerick could surge ahead of Cork if people reject Friday’s vote to establish a directly elected Lord Mayor.

Mr Coveney expects Limerick to pass the plebiscite and create the office, and said that Cork will end up being envious if the vote fails here.

Cllr Shannon described the Tanaiste’s comments as “outrageous” and claimed he was trying to frighten the people of Cork into backing Fine Gael’s “vanity project”.

The former Lord Mayor said he has had conversations with councillors in Limerick and Waterford who claim the proposal is going down like a “lead balloon”.

“It’s the same on the doorsteps here in Cork,” said Cllr Shannon.

“Simon Coveney has claimed this will be a new office of responsibility in Cork but it’s bringing no new power whatsoever to the region.

“It’s merely taking some power from the city manager and the city council and giving it to this new role,” he added.

“It’s a cod.” While Cllr Shannon claimed he is not against the idea of a directly elected mayor, he said the role would need to take on powers from Dublin.

“It has to be a mayor of substance.

“This proposal is simply Mickey Mouse dressed up like Cinderella,” he added.

“The position would have to have the power to influence transport, environment, education and other issues here in Cork.” Tanaiste Simon Coveney recently reiterated the government's commitment to pay for the office, claiming there would be no need for Cork City Council to pull money from elsewhere in its budget.

“The proposal document itself said City Council would have to pay for it but somehow Fine Gael are pulling this money out of nowhere to back their vanity project days before an election,” said Cllr Shannon.

“We’re estimating the position and everything that comes with it would cost between €500,000 and €750,000 a year.

“Where did this money Simon Coveney is claiming exists come from?” he asked.

“This slush fund is to be a discretionary fund which suggests it can be taken away as well as given and any Lord Mayor position that isn’t financially independent is one without power.” Cllr Shannon also claimed that some areas of Cork are yet to receive information leaflets on the plebiscite despite promises all households would have one a month before the ballot.

“If this was a national referendum on divorce or anything else, there’d be hell to pay,” he said.

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