A directly-elected mayor may not address the power imbalance between local and national government

A directly-elected mayor may not address the power imbalance between local and national government

The Chief Executive of Cork City Council ann Doherty and the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Mick Finn.

CORK needs more detail before it consents to a directly elected mayor, according to UCC local government expert Aodh Quinlivan. 

Over the weekend, the government confirmed that Cork will have a plebiscite alongside the local elections next May on establishing a directly elected Mayor. A number of options were outlined, including adding new powers to the current ceremonial role or electing a mayor with executive powers currently held by the council's top staff. 

Mr Quinlivan said that the government needs to provide detailed proposals between now and May, rather than having a vote and working out the details afterwards. 

"Brexit shows us that it's a bad idea to say yes to a concept and then work out the details," he said. 

"We're talking in a vacuum at the moment. We don't know any of the details. We don't know what powers the mayor would have. What powers would they take from the chief executive? Would they replace the chief executive?"

He believes that it is a good idea in principle, but said that it will not address the power imbalance between local and national government. Adding a directly elected mayor on top of a weak local authority would not change much for the public, he said. 

Fine Gael Seanad leader Jerry Buttimer welcomed the plebiscite and said that a directly elected mayor could help the government to push through the Ireland 2040 plan. 

“A directly elected mayor would be of huge benefit to the development of Cork. We are growing the city through the amalgamation of areas, thus expanding the city boundaries, and we are creating clear, new lines to allow a city of scale to be created," he said. 

“What that now requires is a directly-elected mayor who would work in tandem with what the government is working to do under Project Ireland 2040, our roadmap to develop parts of the city that are now used for warehousing, industry and the Port of Cork. The idea is to develop a new Cork, one that can be competitive on the international and world stage.

“While the government is to work through the details of the plebiscites and the questions to be put to the electorate over the coming months, it is very positive to hear that the people of Cork could get a say on this as soon as next May,” he added.

Fianna Fáil councillor Tony Fitzgerald criticised the government for not consulting former Lord Mayors like himself.

During his term last year, he opposed the early plans and reiterated his concerns on Twitter over the weekend.

"The symbolic, civic, and long history associated with the people is very unique to Cork. The love and affection with the people and groups to the 1787 chain couldn't allow time or energy for an administrative role," he said.

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