A PUBLIC ballot for a directly-elected mayor of Cork city could be held as soon as 2020, according to the minister responsible for overseeing it.
A plebiscite — a direct public vote on a specific question — will take place to determine whether the people of Cork want a directly-elected mayor to run City Hall. This vote will be held alongside local and European elections in May.
Minister of State for Local Government, John Paul Phelan, has indicated that he would like to see an election take place within 12 months following this plebiscite if it is passed.
Government legislation stipulates that a report specifying proposals for the enactment of a law providing for a directly-elected mayor must be delivered no later than two years after the plebiscite is held to both houses of the Oireachtas.
However, Mr Phelan said it his intention to carry out a mayoral election within 12 months from the May elections, meaning Cork city could have an elected mayor by May of 2020.
He added that he would eventually like to see every local authority in the country run by an elected official.
“The two-year period is just a maximum period.
“If [the plebiscite] passed, I would absolutely intend to have directly-elected mayoral elections held within 12 months,” he said.
“There has been a lot of shilly-shallying on the issue, some of it for legitimate reasons and some not.
“I want to move to a position where every local authority in the country has a directly-elected head.
“It is all about rebalancing the relationship between the manager — as we used to call them in my day — and the chair.
“Pending the Government decision, this will have no impact on the functions that are reserved for the councillors, and they would still have to approve development plans and budgets, and would still be responsible for the distribution of funds in the municipal districts.
“I am not talking about impacting on that relationship at all.
“At the same time, we have this Victorian-type system in Ireland where too much power rests in an unelected official,” Mr Phelan added.
It is not yet clear what powers the office of a directly-elected mayor would hold.
At present, the Lord Mayor holds only ceremonial powers and is elected for a one-year term by city councillors.
The new role could encompass executive powers.
The Lord Mayor could also remain a ceremonial role but be elected for a five-year term by the public.