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?