THE Lord Mayor of Cork Mick Finn has written to the government seeking clarity on plans for a directly-elected mayor amid ongoing uncertainty about the role.
Legislation allowing for directly-elected mayors in Cork and a number of other cities is at committee stage in the Oireachtas. If passed, the plan is to ask the electorate if they would favour such a change next May, at the same time as local elections. If voters back the change, a mayor could be elected as soon as 2021.
There has been Opposition criticism that the Government this week tabled more than 30 pages of amendments to the Local Government Bill.
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy described them as ‘technical amendments’ and said the bill should be supported ‘if people believe in local democracy.’
However, there is little clarity yet as to what the role of a directly-elected mayor will entail.
Lord Mayor Mick Finn said: “Are we getting rid of the title and dispensing with the historic and so well-respected position of Lord Mayor as we know it, in favour of a Cathaoirleach and will that chairperson replace or work alongside the city CEO?
“These are the fundamental questions that need to be answered first before speculatively commenting on executive versus ceremonial powers of a role and processes in totally different political systems.”
Earlier this week Port of Cork Chairman John Mullins said the position could be a game-changer for the city, if given real power. But Mr Finn said the role is already an important one.
“As proven by their successful efforts in overturning the misplaced and ultimately rejected proposal to create an unwieldy super council of Cork City and County, several former Lord Mayors of Cork demonstrated considerably more than ‘ceremonial powers’ in ensuring the ongoing integrity of the democratic process,” he said.
“Cities require a balanced approach in terms of leadership: community and representation of the public are as important as business and economic interests. That duality needs to be maintained in the public interest.”