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Dublin Mayor: Is there much here that a minister of state can’t do?

Posted by Jason O on Feb 26, 2010 in Irish Politics |

That's not a mayor, THAT'S a mayor!

That's not a mayor, THAT'S a mayor!

I have a lot of time for John Gormley, and really believe that he is a good guy trying to do what’s right. I also believe very strongly that local government change, based on elected mayors, is a key part of reforming Irish politics. But I think the jury is out on what John Gormley’s proposing. You see, the key problem in Irish politics is the disconnect not just between voter and elected official, but elected official and ability to do stuff. Nearly all our TDs and councillors have little ability other than to lobby people who do have power, and it creates a malfunctioning political system where Irish people constantly believe (wrongly and at times selfishly, having voted for people) that the way the country is run has nothing to do with them.

This new office of Dublin Mayor seems likely to perpetuate the cycle, creating yet another publicly funded person to “call” and “urge” things. Sitting on committees is not good enough: Surely John Gormley’s membership of the cabinet has proven that. But what is most puzzling is why he is so reluctant to actually give the mayor direct power over things like Dublin Bus? He/she will be elected, after all.

What’s the problem? Is it as Deirdre de Burca has said? That FF are blocking everything? Gormley has said he will discuss the bill with the opposition. I’d say go further. If the opposition propose amendments that are good, Green TDs should vote for them. Who cares if it pisses FF off? The Green Party does not exist to placate FF, and if Cowan wants to sack Gormley and Ryan as a result, good. If FF want to call a general election on the outrageous premises that the Dail has debated and discussed legislation, fair enough. Just because the Dail votes through a bill the government doesn’t like, that doesn’t mean the government should collapse.   

Still, I wouldn’t completely rubbish the proposal yet. A lot can depend on who actually holds the office. If a serious candidate is elected mayor, he/she could use it as a bully pulpit to actually get something done. But you can’t help thinking, is there not a lot here that a minister of state for Dublin couldn’t do?

3 Comments

James Lawless
Mar 1, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Personally I find it the most frustrating thing of all about politics. Not being able to get things done for people. I’m not talking about underhand sleeveen favours type stuff, real problems that you can see a solution to but have no power to implement. People raise an issue, you hear them out, realise they have an excellent point but there is the unfortunate reality there is nothing you can do about it. Politicians are beholden to the planners, public servants, directors of services and town/county managers. I imagine being on the inside as an elected rep gives a greater degree of influence but I have heard elected members gripe furiously how impotent their efforts have been on an issue. At the moment I believe there may be a reluctance to facilitate FF reps in particular, obviously this is only anecdotal, but does ring true in context of public sector unrest.


 
Jason O
Mar 1, 2010 at 4:23 pm

What’s extraordinary about our local government system is that when the county manager system was introduced in the 1930s it was a cutting edge idea, that councillors could hire a professional manager to run the day to day county whilst they set the policy direction. What happened was that the CMs became more and more answerable to Dublin. Having said that, there is a genuine fear that if councillors had genuine power over CMs, they would just refuse to make unpopular decisions (Look what happened to waste policy and traveller halting sites. They refused in many cases to make ANY decision) I’m not sure this is a bad thing, in that if councillors badly ran a county for five years, surely they’d be voted out?
Having said that, one can never be surprised at the Irish voter.


 
Dermot Lacey
Mar 15, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Hi Jason,

Just saw this post. I think the Draft legislation gives the new Mayor more opportunities to be effective than some give it credit for.

I look forward to asking the question. How many litter fines were issued last night?


 

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