A DIRECTLY elected mayor will be essential for driving development in Cork city.
I am an unapologetic supporter of the newly proposed position of a directly elected Lord Mayor of Cork, and I am urging the people of Cork to support the upcoming plebiscite this May.
It is essential we fully debate the role and function of the new post and get as many people as possible engaged with the issues ahead of the vote.
The Government is due to consider the plebiscite at a Cabinet meeting on March 20, with the vote due to take place on May 24. There is ample time to inform and campaign but we cannot be complacent and assume it is going to pass.
I fully recognise that the Government must publish in depth the role, power, functions, resources, and terms of the position, so as to inform people fully of what the job entails. I expect this to happen shortly.
The outcome of this plebiscite will determine the future of local government in Cork.
We have been well served by our previous Lord Mayors, but now, I believe it is time to transform as we enter a new enlarged city and local government arrangement for Cork.
A directly elected Lord Mayor will make a statement, send out a vision for political leadership and offer an increased democratic mandate and accountability.
The new role will provide new transparency of the workings of the city council and act as a strategic driver of Cork and the wider region.
Undoubtedly, there are questions that must be addressed. It is imperative that we put in place a series of information meetings across Cork as part of the advancement of the case and I have invited the Minister of State, John Paul Phelan, to Cork to engage on this crucial vote.
I believe this is an exciting time for Cork as we are in the midst of the most radical overhaul of local government in the history of the city.
This plebiscite is about the future vision of our city. It is about giving a mandate to a political leader to take their vision to create new vibrant Cork city in tandem with Project Ireland 2040 to grow and develop Cork.
We must also ensure members of the city council are not lost in the transition. Our city council members have always played a significant role in local government.
Here in Cork, our elected members are pivotal in this important time for the city. I am ambitious for the role of directly elected mayor to be cultivated and created in association with the city council.
If the plebiscite is passed, the new mayor will need to work closely with city council members. The council will have oversight of the directly elected mayor and will be a significant partner in the new local government arrangements.
As a Corkonian, I am very passionate about Cork. Through Project Ireland 2040, the Government has given an imprimatur to the regions to grow and develop and be that counterbalance to Dublin.
It is incumbent on us to develop the role of directly elected Lord Mayor to be the driver and creator of a new modern, dynamic local government structure in our city.
In some way, the challenges we face today are no different to that when local government commenced. However, there are always new challenges facing our urban areas.
Today’s challenges include the move to carbon neutral cities, fully integrated transport and increasing our housing supply.
As Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael John Horan stated in his recent address to Seanad Eireann: “It is about ensuring we have green spaces for recreation and parks in our cities.”
I think it’s about saying to those who are tempted to oppose it that we can win them over by the strength of our argument. It is about being positive. It is about speaking to those who perhaps are sceptical.
It is also about putting in place the building block to create this platform for our cities.
As I said at the beginning, this is the most important role being created in local government and our civic life because it is about our place — Cork, our communities and our people.
We have seen directly elected mayors work in other cities — the upcoming plebiscite now gives us an opportunity to make this change that will benefit us into the future.
It is incumbent on everyone who cares about the future of our city, including myself, to inform the people of Cork of the positives of moving to a directly elected mayor, who will be able to set the agenda for driving the Cork region forward and to help enhance the quality of life for people living here.
This plebiscite is about Cork city. I strongly believe that the new role of directly elected Lord Mayor is necessary and will be a catalyst in driving the city and the region forward.