Coveney: Cabinet to be briefed soon on directly-elected mayoral powers

The Cabinet should get details soon on the powers for directly-elected mayors proposed for Cork, Limerick and Waterford, the Tanaiste said.

Simon Coveney said he expects a briefing within two to three weeks.

It comes in the wake of concerns raised in Cork about the lack of clarity on the issue just months before people are asked to vote on the city having a directly-elected mayor.

Mr Coveney said he supports the concept of a directly-elected mayor and the plebiscite, due to happen on the same day as the local and European elections on May 24.

“I’m a big supporter of this plebiscite,” he said.

I would have been the minister that brought forward the concept for Cork of a directly elected mayor so I’m a big advocate for it and will be a big part of the campaign hopefully, in terms of explaining to people why we are doing this.

But with just over 12-weeks before the vote, concerns about mounting about the lack of information about the proposals.

While Dublin will have a citizens assembly on the question of establishing a directly-elected mayor, people in Cork are being asked to vote on it in May.

A public workshop in Cork earlier this month, organised by the Cork Mayor Campaign, a cross-party movement campaigning for a directly-elected mayor in the city, raised fears that the plebiscite has been designed to fail given the lack of clarity on the new office and the lack of information which has been given to citizens.

Mr Coveney said he has spoken to Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform, John Paul Phelan, on the issue in recent days and expects Cabinet to be briefed on proposals within the next two to three weeks.

“In the next two weeks, I hope, Minister John Paul Phelan will bring forward proposals to sign off in Cabinet for the powers that will go with that directly elected mayor’s position,” he said.

“We are not simply electing a lord mayor that has the same powers as today. We are changing the role of the Lord Mayor as well as hopefully allowing the people to choose the person that they want.

“Those new powers will be brought to government, I think in the next two weeks, certainly in the next two to three weeks.

“The sooner we get that out there, the sooner I will be able to answer the detailed questions people will have.”

He said the new position will have “some powers” in terms of “certain policy areas” and said while some have described the new post as almost like a “halfway house” between the current roles of Lord Mayor and council chief executive, he stressed that the new directly elected lord mayor will be answerable to a city council.

“But the (directly-elected) lord mayor will certainly have increased policy powers on what the lord mayor’s office has today,” he said.

“This is about the vision for Cork – let’s be very clear about that – a larger city, the fastest growing city in the country, the fastest growing city and county in the country for the next 20-years, transforming our city from the inside out, in terms of new, taller, higher-quality office space and apartments in the city centre, sustainable public transport systems, significant investment in road infrastructure, new bridges in the city, all of the things that are part of the sustainable growth story that Cork is going to be part of for the next two decades,” Mr Coveney said.

“To actually drive that, in my view, having a lord mayor that is more powerful, that has a direct mandate from the people of the city to actually deliver on his or her vision for the city, is all part of what we are trying to create now – a new vision for a very, very dynamic city.”

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