Port chairman: Directly elected mayor must have real power

Port chairman: Directly elected mayor must have real power
Cork City Hall.Picture Denis Minihane.

THE chairman of the Port of Cork has strongly backed proposals for a directly-elected Cork mayor and hasn’t ruled out running himself.

John Mullins believes a mayor with executive powers could transform long-term planning and project management at a time of enormous growth in the city.

John Mullins: Directly-elected mayor needs real power.
John Mullins: Directly-elected mayor needs real power.

The Government has committed to holding a vote on directly-elected mayors in Cork, Galway, Limerick, and Waterford next year. Mr Mullins, who has also served as a CEO of Bord Gáis and president of Cork Chamber, said it is too soon to think about running but added: “I feel strongly about it, I have been president of Cork Chamber, I have been involved in infrastructure projects and Páirc Uí Chaoimh and you do need that type of leadership, particularly when the city is growing as it is set to.”

Mr Mullins said it would be important to give a directly elected mayor real power and he urged the Government to set out the parameters of the role.

“If it only going to be ceremonial don’t bother doing it,” he said.

“I think the Government has to be very clear when they go to the people next May, that the concept of the mayor of Cork city is one which has certain functions. It can pull in elements of transport, elements of infrastructure and have real powers.

“It has worked in many other cities, I work in France and you can’t do anything in France without speaking to the local mayor. If he or she says no, that’s it, they really do have significant powers.

“There will be no shortage of candidates. I hope it happens and I certainly think if it does have those type of powers you will be surprised by the candidates.”

When the possibility was first suggested earlier this year, concerns were raised that Cork was being used as a test case ahead of implementing a similar scheme in Dublin but as a proud Corkman Mr Mullins is unconcerned.

“So what? I wouldn’t care about that,” he said. 

“I take the attitude that Cork can do it for itself, it doesn’t need be looking at Dublin the whole time. Cork should be looking at other European cities, you shouldn’t live in the shadow of the capital city. 

“We have a thriving economy here and can do a lot more. I think an agenda need to be set into the 2020s and I see this a great opportunity to have a strong role there.”

If the role comes in, it is understood the first election for mayor would take place in 2021, which is when Mr Mullins is due to step down as a chairman of the Port of Cork.

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