TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney has described the proposed directly elected Lord Mayor of Cork role as the most powerful political office in the country outside of the cabinet.
At the launch of Fine Gael’s yes campaign for next month’s plebiscite in the Clayton Hotel yesterday, Mr Coveney said the powers and resources will rival that of a member of government. “It will be properly resourced, both financially and from a staffing perspective. It will have real power and it will have a mandate directly from the people to be able to put a real programme for government together over five years to deliver for the city,” he said.
“If you look at the breadth of the policy powers that that person would have, as well as the direct mandate that they would have, I do think it is probably the most powerful political office in the country outside of cabinet.”
Mr Coveney said the role would help Cork achieve the Project Ireland 2040 plan to grow Cork to provide a counterbalance to Dublin.
“This is about creating a champion to deliver that potential, which will involve significant budgets, a lot of strategic policy decisions.”
Senator Jerry Buttimer is to act as Fine Gael’s campaign director in Cork. He said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will attend a town hall meeting to discuss the proposal on May 1, and smaller workshops will be organised in each local electoral area.
The party will carry out postering, leafleting, a media campaign, and door-to-door canvassing to promote a yes vote.
Addressing critics of the plan who say local government needs more power before directly elected mayors should be established, Local Government Minister John Paul Phelan said that after 20 years of debate about the proposal, he didn’t want to wait around for politicians to make a decision.
“A lot of political decisions are not made because there is too much time spent among politicians discussing rather than going to the public about what they want the role to be,” he said. “Ultimately, the people will be the judge.”
Separately, the State-backed, non-partisan Committee to Oversee the Plebiscite Public Information Campaign also launched yesterday.
Chaired by former High Court judge Henry Abbott, the committee will act like a referendum commission, offering factual information on mayors.gov.ie, a guide delivered to every household, public information meetings, and a media and advertising campaign.