Fingal County Council’s Vote Against Elected Mayor “Selfish”

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Councillors representing the Dublin South East area have strongly criticised Fingal County Council’s decision to vote against a Bill calling for a directly elected Mayor for Dublin.

Fingal County Council vetoed the Local Government Bill by 16 votes to six back in March in a controversial decision, which leaves the ongoing debate for a directly elected Mayor uncertain.

“The action of Fingal County Council was both cowardly and selfish,” Fine Gael Councillor Paddy McCartan tells NewsFour.

“Fingal are totally out of step with the other three Dublin Local Authorities; all that was being asked of Fingal was to allow the people to decide whether they wished to have a directly elected Mayor for their city.”

“I believe the whole system was skewed against it, the Department of the Environment didn’t want it,” says Labour Cllr. Gerry Ashe, expressing an opinion shared by some of her colleagues from the South East Area. “There’s a disconnect between Fingal and the City; Dun Laoghaire didn’t have a problem but somehow Fingal did.”

The Local Government Bill, introduced by the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan last October, proposed one of the largest overhauls of local government in the history of the state. It will merge some County and City Councils, abolish town Councils (a process that has already begun), create municipal districts and allow for a referendum on whether or not to have a directly elected Mayor for Dublin.

The Department of the Environment left the Mayoral decision up to Dublin’s 4 Councils; Fingal, Dublin City Council, Dublin South Council and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, with three in favour and one (Fingal) voting against.

“I could not support something that was not detailed enough in my mind to put to a vote,” says Fingal Fianna Fáil Cllr. Darragh Butler, who decided not to vote on the measure. “Had we voted yes and it had been passed, Minister Hogan would have a totally free hand to decide what powers this Mayor would or would not have. I was not convinced that this was in the best interests of Fingal residents.”

The decision by Fingal County Council has left some puzzled faces on some elected representatives and on the faces of Council officials. In 2010, Dublin City Council launched the Your Dublin, Your Voice online initiative, which asked should the city have a directly elected Mayor. As NewsFour reported last summer, many mainstream politicians supported the idea of a directly elected Mayor, including Independent Cllr Mannix Flynn, Ciaran Cuffe of the Green Party and former Lord Mayors Oisín Quinn and Naoise O’Muirí, who remarked that “most modern cities have elected officials.”

“It’s a terrible shame that the people of Dublin won’t have a choice,” says Fianna Fáil Candidate for Pembroke/South-Dock, Frank Kennedy. “I understand that Fingal Councillors were concerned because there was little or no detail, but this was not a good enough reason to deny Dubliners a vote.”

“The manner in which they have blocked this is completely undemocratic,” says Fine Gael Cllr. Kieran Binchy, “It prevents the people of Dublin having their say on whether they want a directly-elected Mayor.”

The future of our city’s Mayor seems rather uncertain.

By Liam Cahill